Aug 12

“Still Mine”: Determined Against Odds to Help Declining Wife

Still Devoted. Still Determined. Tagline for Still Mine

Still Mine is a new Canadian film by writer/director Michael McGowan that’s based on a true story about an older couple, together 61 years, in which wife Irene (Geneviève Bujold) is showing significant signs of decline. Her husband Craig (James Cromwell) sets out to build the smaller house she needs, getting himself in trouble by defying local building codes and such.

Rex Reed, New York Observer, calls Still Mine a “sensitively made, superbly acted and deeply moving” film that’s “without the melodrama, pessimism or sentimentality” of other comparable movies like Amour and Unfinished Song. “Yes, it’s about the inevitable consequences of growing old, but nobody dies, and you go away energized with optimism. If you have ever had a friend, neighbor or grandparent like James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold, you can almost look forward to being an octogenarian. They are nothing short of magnificent.”

Watch the trailer below:

Kudos to Cromwell

By all accounts, Cromwell’s performance is the highlight of the film.

Geoff PevereThe Globe and Mail:

While Still Mine pays close attention to matters like the fading family farm, increasingly intrusive bureaucratic regulations and the heartbreaking ordeal of losing a mate to irreversibly worsening dementia, its main spectacle is Cromwell’s Craig Morrison, a man built like a scarecrow and usually standing alone like one, and whose default mode of ornery sarcasm keeps him at a prickly distance from everyone around. As played by the remarkably effective Cromwell, an actor too often consigned to the margins of character performances, Morrison is a man of considerable complexity and frustrating bullheadedness, but always true to his own – if not the building inspector’s – code…

…(T)he movie’s considerable inspirational heft is provided not by Craig’s up-against-the-system quixotism but his persistent individualism, the deep-seated conviction that nobody knows his land, his business, his wood or his wife anywhere near as well as he does, and he’ll go to jail before he’ll admit any differently. The point isn’t that he’s right, but that he so firmly believes he is, he’ll build a house on it.

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “‘Still Mine’ is Mr. Cromwell’s film from first scene to closing credits…he is always present, alive and real, with a wealth of understated feelings. This is the greatest performance of his rich career.”

John Anderson, Newsday: “What would otherwise have been be a rather banal David-Goliath story…is elevated by Cromwell into something more weighty, and even existentially profound.”

The Couple

Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times: “…(I)t’s the intimate moments between Craig and Irene, be they of reverie, passion, devotion or frustration, that truly elevate this beautifully shot picture. Cromwell and Bujold, while significantly younger than their late-80s characters (though the petite Bujold, with her flowing white hair and lived-in skin, more visually fills the bill), inhabit their roles with nobility, grace and the wisdom of age.”

Chuck Wilson, Village Voice: “…a surprisingly sensual long-term marriage.”

Friends and Family

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “My one caveat is that, with the exception of one concerned but mostly exasperated daughter, the Morrisons’ seven grown children rarely offer advice or even a helping hand to parents in trouble, and Irene doesn’t seem to know any of them anyway. They get more aid from a young, frustrated lawyer (another wonderful performance by Campbell Scott).”

Jul 15

“Unfinished Song”: Older Partners Coping With the Help of Music

Watching the new British film Unfinished Song, written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams, reminded me of the inspiring and worthy documentary Young at Heart (2007), about a real-life chorus of senior citizens in Massachusetts that sings contemporary songs. However, Unfinished Song is fictional, and the focus is mainly on only one individual, not the whole group.

From the official description of this dramedy: “UNFINISHED SONG is the funny and uplifting story of Arthur (Terence Stamp), a curmudgeon old soul perfectly content with sticking to his dull daily routine until his beloved wife (Vanessa Redgrave) introduces him to a spirited local singing group led by the youthful and charming Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton).” TaglineMusic is the cure for the common crank.

“Funny” is not the main sentiment that comes to my own mind, though. Yes, there’s humor—and thankfully; but there’s also plenty of poignancy. 

Arthur and Marion: More About the Plot

Stephen Holden, New York Times: “The suds machine kicks in from the outset when Marion, who is being treated for cancer, learns she has only months to live. Her fiercely protective husband insists that she stay at home and rest, but Marion, a devoted chorister who is beloved among the group members, insists on continuing for as long as she can. After she dies, about halfway into the movie [Elizabeth] coaxes Arthur to join and participate in a regional choir competition.”

No Ordinary Performances: More About The Stars

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “What Stamp and Redgrave really accomplish here is to paint a portrait of a long marriage without resorting to flashbacks or expository dialogue. It’s in every look and gesture. In the film, a comment is made about the power of a voice being not in technique but in the journey it took to get there. Stamp and Redgrave and living embodiments of that philosophy. Just sit back and behold.”

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: “Stamp could not be better as a man set emotionally adrift when he loses the love of his life.”

Need a Good Cry?: More About What You’ll Feel

Tomas Hachard, NPR: “…Unfinished Song, which played festivals last year under the title Song for Marion, doesn’t earn its sentimentalism; instead it rolls through a series of cliched life lessons that never come close to exploring the film’s emotional territory with any depth or commitment.”

Stephen Holden, New York Times: “To gag or to weep, that is the question. You may do both while watching ‘Unfinished Song,’ a shamelessly sentimental, manipulative comic tear-jerker; a grumpy old man; and his saintly wife.”

Worth Seeing?: More from the Reviewers

Claudia Puig, USA Today: “A moving meditation on aging, illness, family conflicts and long relationships, Unfinished Song…also celebrates life and pays tribute to catchy songs.”

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:Unfinished Song is Glee for seniors living in the hope of making it to nationals. Hold the cringes…Unfinished Song is better than Glee, way better. Nobody on that painfully-dying series has the talent of Stamp, 74, and Redgrave, 76, two acting legends who could breathe creative helium into anything, including this corpse of a script.”