Wednesday, July 10, 2013

James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold shine in Michael McGowan's STILL MINE

"You have to take this one for what it is," noted a friend who attended the screening of STILL MINE. I agree. What it is is the latest in a series of newly minted movies about senior citizens dealing with life and doing this interestingly enough to attract the kind of numbers to make the movie profitable. After the Americans gave us The Bucket List, the Brits The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the French All Together (to name but three in the stream), here comes Canada's entry, which is -- typically -- smarter, simpler and with a high degree of integrity.

This will, of course, limit its box-office potential. But there should be enough seniors (along with others) who simply appreciate a good story, fine acting and grounded, unfussy writing and direction to take a chance on this quiet and immaculate movie. Written and directed by Michael McGowan, shown at left, Still Mine tells the tale of an old couple, played by James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold, now in their 80s but seemingly quite buff and happy, and what happens as she begins to seriously decline.  (No, this is not another Amour; it's maybe twice as interesting, much less oppressive, and not so predeterminedly, insistently closed off.)

Mr. Cromwell's Craig is a still-loving, take-charge husband of the old school, and the actor gets the best chance to shine here since his 1995 Oscar-nominated role in the terrific Babe. Craig has overlooked some of his wife Irene's odd memory jogs (a lovely, sad performance from Ms Bujold, below), but as these worsen and she takes a fall, he must face the fact that their large two-story house is not conducive to her health. Nothing like wealthy, the couple does, however, own some land, and so Craig decides to build a smaller, single-level house atop the hill, with a bay window for Irene to enjoy the view.

And that is when the real problems begin. Based on a true-life tale, McGowan's movie hues nicely to the ins and outs of senior life -- fending off those over-concerned, adult children; needing (even enjoying) occasional sex; coming to terms with what one can and can't do; and facing a world that is simply not the one in which these oldsters grew up.

What makes the film especially fine, however, is what it doesn't do: McGowan and his actors never go for the easy laugh, or overplay anything. They underwhelm -- and thus keep us watching and believing.

And while we may sympathize with Craig's stand regarding his ability to build his own house from scratch, we also understand the bureaucrats he encounters and their insistence on doing things by the book. The filmmaker finds no villains here, though Craig and Irene most definitely are the heroes of their own story.

All the supporting roles are well cast and beautifully acted, and the fact that most of us Americans will not recognize most of these Canadians (though there is a fine turn by Campbell Scott, at left, above, as Craig's lawyer) will only make Still Mine seem all that much more real.

The movie, from Samuel Goldwyn Films and running 102 minutes, opens this Friday, July 12 in the Los Angeles area and other California locations, then hits New York City and environs next Friday, July 19, before beginning a limited release around the rest of the country. To see all currently scheduled cities and theaters, click here.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I live in Canada, my local library showed the movie Still Mine it was a very touching story and very well done. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I have been telling my friends to go and see it.

James van Maanen said...

Thanks, Anon -- and I hope your friends all go see it. Along with anyone else who's reading this post. STILL MINE's a good one.