by George Sax
Poignance and inspiration pervade Canadian filmmaker Michael McGowan’s affecting Still Mine, but this small-scale movie’s sturdy, uncomplicated humor, and McGowan’s sure handling of his material, prevent it from descending into sentimental simplicities most of the time. Still Mine is also helped by its real-life grounding. It’s nothing like a docudrama in tone, but it does track fairly closely to the story of an actual rural New Brunswick, Canada couple’s struggle with aging, illness, and their local officials’ restrictions on the husband’s individualistic attempt to provide an at-least partial remedy for their increasingly difficult situation.
When 87-year-old farmer and lumberman Craig Morrison (James Cromwell) realized several years ago that his wife Irene (Geneviève Bujold) was slipping into dementia, he also realized they couldn’t live anymore in their farmhouse. He undertook the construction of a smaller one-story home sitting on a prime, picturesque spot amid his 200-acre farm and timberland. But his remarkable, almost single-handed project—whose practicality and safety were questioned by friends and family—soon met legal objections from local officials, who cited building code standards and procedures. Still Mine tells the tale of his response to mounting difficulties, including his changing relationship with his wife of 61 years.
In Morrison, McGowan has a very model of firm individualism and adherence to a personal code of conduct. As interpreted by him and Cromwell, Morrison can sometimes seem implausibly admirable—too super-competent, patient, articulate, generous. The movie’s Morrison, with his quiet courage and intelligence, renders the local government’s opposition even more unreasonable than it may have been. But it’s difficult to resist this portrait of decency and persistence even as one may harbor skepticism.
McGowan’s movie is artfully simple; it skillfully creates a homely lyricism. Its appeal is sturdy, like its unusual protagonist.
Watch the trailer for Still Mine
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