Obviously, death is an important topic. It is something man has dwelled on and lamented upon since the beginning of human life on Earth. Questions of why we’re here and what happens when we depart are things everyone is curious about. Film delves into the topic of death quite extensively but in the new dramedy Still Life, we get a unique perspective on death and the effects it has on loved ones. It is a movie with powerful themes, subtle beauty, and an understated and rather genius performance from British actor Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky, The World’s End). Though a smart and thoughtful film, Still Life will almost certainly fall through the cracks and into the depths of obscurity.
The film focuses on John May (Marsan), an employee for the local council in South London. His job is to track down the next of kid for individuals who have recently passed away and lived alone. If they lived by themselves, it is then up to John to find their children, friends, or estranged loved ones. And if there aren’t any next of kin, John attends the funeral as a sign of respect and a basic function of his job. It is a morbid job but there is also a good amount of hope knowing that there are people out there who care that their loved ones died peacefully and have others to respect their legacy. John’s latest case is of a man who passed in his very building. This of course adds a bit of drama in John’s life especially when he strikes up a romance with the gentleman’s daughter Kelly played by Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey, Filth).
Still Life isn’t your typical film. It is a very gray-looking film but it isn’t depressing. The tagline should be “It is what it is.” because that is the attitude adopted by many of the film’s characters especially John, who displays little to no emotion when doing his job. He has to do it and does it efficiently and without complaint. His respect for the dead leads him to eventually ask questions regarding his own mortality and his spiritual and personal journey is a quiet one as he barely lets anyone into his life. Kelly is the light in his otherwise mundane existence and their eventual relationship offers some peace in John’s otherwise dull and pointless existence.
Writer/producer/director Uberto Pasolini (The Full Monty, Machan) has given audiences a profound and heartfelt look at death and next of kin. Basically, life goes on and Pasolini has presented this in a light, sometimes painful way. The humor is extremely dry and Eddie Marsan was the perfect choice for the lead role. He looks like an everyman, someone who goes through life doing what he needs to do, rinse and repeat. His life is a boring one and Marsan gives a sincere performance here. Though not a feel-good film, Still Life does offer some comfort when thinking about death.
Still Life has some potential of becoming a cult favorite especially with Marsan’s strong performance and the many question that pop up when discussing death. This isn’t a bleak look at death, it is an honest one and a film that is definitely worth checking out at least once.