Still Life (2013) | DVD release

April 4th, 2015
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director/Writer: Uberto Pasolini

Cast: Eddie Marsan, Joanne Froggatt, Karen Dury, Andrew Buchan

92min  Drama

Uberto Pasolini’s expertly-crafted and affecting look at one man’s life is nothing short of a mini masterpiece. After screening at Venice back in 2013, it has finally arrived in British cinemas and has been very much worth waiting for.

The main reason to see it is for Eddie Marsan’s performance as John May, a 44-year-old South London civil servant, whose job is to trace the next of kin of those who die unnoticed by their friends and family. Some would consider this a morbid profession, but such is the dedication and touching commitment of Mr May to his work, that to watch him go about his daily duty becomes absorbing and almost enjoyable, in itself.

A seasoned professional with over 100 films to his name, Eddie Marsan, has made his performances here into a work of art: every subtle detail; every expression; tilt of the head; sigh and quiet smile is a subtle and yet integral to the part of Mr May.  His integrity and pride he takes in the gloomy tasks is transformed into a thing thing of joy. That everyone deserves a decent burial, goes without saying, but Mr May adds dignity to theirs lives, if only in death, by attending the funerals of the deceased, sometimes as the only mourner.

And these are not only Christian ceremonies: all denominations are catered for personally, based on photos in the deceased’s council homes, he composes thoughtful eulogies based on minimal details and selects the appropriate anthems  music for services (Pasolini’s wife, Rachel Portman, composed the film’s score). Pasolini’s shrewd scripting and subtle characterisation are complimented by Stefano Falivene’s elegant and occasionally witty visuals echoing the central character’s preoccupation with order and Marsan’s powerful stillness embues every scene. John May is a character straight out of an Anita Brookner novel. A tightening tension creeps in slowly as the narrative develops but no one could predict the final scenes. MT




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