Still Mine (2012)
User ReviewsReview this title
the simple plot was well developed and allowed for some unexpected twists and pleasant surprises along with some intense moments of personal angst.
well done to the actors and makers of this hidden gem.
No, you won't get CGI, explosions and budding romance from this film. It's from an emerging genre - films for oldies - think Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (which I loved), Quartet (which I didn't) and Amour, to which it has been compared.
Except to say, it's a compelling story, tightly written, with exceptional performances, which should interest most people, of any age, as long as you don't solely crave superhero sequels.
On one hand, this is a tale, based on a true story, of the short-sightedness of bureaucracy. Who hasn't fought red tape, at some point in their lives? On another, it's about trusting each other and allowing those with fading powers to live the life they want to live for as long as possible.
Comes now to this cinematic tradition is the Canadian production "Still Mine" written, produced and directed by Michael McGowan which is shot in New Brunswick where the actual events on which this story is based,took place.
Craig Morrison (James Cromwell) is a remarkably robust octogenarian. Irene (Genevieve Bujold)his wife of sixty years is sinking into that long, slow descent toward the abyss that is dementia/Alzheimer's. Craig decides that their old house is clearly unsuitable for Irene as she declines,so he decides to build a new, smaller house, on their own land, and by his own hand, since they don't have the money to hire a contractor.
Craig embarks on his project with considerable enthusiasm, but that is soon overwhelmed by the local building code bureaucrat Rick Daigle(Jonathan Potts) who buries Craig with permits, plans, standards, and regulations. He intends to enforce those codes with the soulless tenacity of Les Miserable's Javert.
If Craig does not correct and comply with all the violations cited (26 I believe) Daigle tells Craig that he will bulldoze the house.
"Is that a threat," says Craig
"No," says Daigle with a chilling bureaucratic assuredness, "it's the law."
As Craig fights, haggles, and cajoles the powers that be; Craig and their grown children must watch and endure as they see their wife and mother slip ever farther away from them. This is not a dysfunctional family, it is a very close family in a community full of friends and neighbors. However, that doesn't mean there are no conflicts, tensions and angst as together they face the difficult circumstances and decisions that lie ahead.
Those of us who saw Bujold those many years ago in "Ann of a Thousand Days", remember, aside from her obvious beauty, those expressive eyes. Now well into her 70's without a hint of plastic surgery, she still projects the powerful inner strength that is so critical to this character; as she faces the certainty of a bleak future while still maintaining the mental wherewithal to cherish the moments she still has left. It is through those eyes that we will see the anger, the frustration, and the fear of the oncoming oblivion, but we will also see the loyalty and the love she has for her friends, her family and most of all her husband.
James Cromwell has become something of a national treasure with movies like "The Artist", "LA Confidential" and "Babe"; TV shows like "ER" and "The West Wing", the list is truly astonishing. I remember him in a commercial where he played a Marine gunnery sergeant. He looks down (he's 6'7") at some nerdy little dude and says "Were you ever in the Corps?" The nerdy dude says "no", and with the confident arrogance of veteran Corps drill instructor Cromwell says "I didn't think so." I don't remember the product, but I remember him. He has that kind of presence and it is well used here.
I was struck when I walked into the theater by the possibility that I may have been the youngest guy in there, and I assure you that I am not a young man. I hope that despite the obvious tag lines that go with this movie, that this doesn't become known as a geezer flick, because it is much more than that.
I can't remember a movie that affected me more emotionally. It is true, as they say, I have some skin in this game, as I am growing older and I watched my own mother ravaged by this cruel and unjust disease. When Irene cries out, "What if I forget everything!? " My lips mouthed the words, "You will, you will." So it was pretty close to home, and some viewers may not have as strong a reaction as I did, but I can tell you that the audience I sat with was greatly moved.
Nevertheless, as we inexorably march toward the curing of societal ills with institutional remedy; we give scant notice to the corresponding loss of liberty, freedom, individuality, and our identity. Key elements all, in making the decisions and choices that are best for ourselves. Or they could be the worst for ourselves, but that is of no matter, the important thing is that they are our choices. Craig and the whole Morrison clan are an inspiration to remember that in times of trouble or crisis our most reliable ally to carry us through will be the faith we have in ourselves to call on our own inner strength.
The good. Compelling and touching story. Well built scenario. Nice photography. All together, a solid film.
The actors. The whole cast gave a spot on performance, but James Cromwell shows himself as a true star here with a very attaching character.
The bad. Most of the plot elements have been seen many times in different forms over the years. Even though the mix is unique, you get an overall sense of déjà vu.
The ugly. Nothing.
The result. A simple tale that can resonate with anybody. Don't expect action or great drama, and you'll be pleasantly entertained.
Final Thoughts: It's just a wonderful film, and one not talked about nearly enough for my liking. As a Canadian, I am proud of how good this movie is. Any one should be able to get into it. It's a very moving film
"Still Mine" is a thoughtful and sensitive Canadian-made movie, based on the true story of Craig Morrison and his wife Irene, played in the movie by James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold. It's in many ways a gentle and slow-paced movie that combines two generally unrelated subject matters: growing old, and fighting the bureaucracy. Irene has dementia, and is gradually losing her memory. To keep her safe, Craig decides to build a new house, but gets into trouble with local building inspectors in a small town in New Brunswick, who issue a stop work order until he agrees to do things their way. Craig knows what he's doing, and the house he's building is perfectly safe, but the bureaucracy only sees that he hasn't followed all the rules. Meanwhile, as Craig battles the bureaucracy, he also deals with Irene's decline - most often sensitively and lovingly, but sometimes - and understandably - getting overwhelmed and lashing out at her.
The performances from Cromwell and Bujold were very good, and Cromwell won a Canadian Screen Award (sort of the Canadian version of an Oscar) as Best Actor for his performance. They brought their characters to life, and as a viewer you cared about Craig and Irene.
No. This isn't an exciting movie. But if a movie that's touching and sensitive appeals to you, "Still Mine" is definitely worth watching. (7/10)
Hauled into court and facing jail time Craig Morrison staring down a visibly unimpressed Judge asks "Do you watch baseball, your honor?" This comment transports the narrative back to how his story let to this moment in time. Morrison lives with his wife Irene (Genevieve Bujold) who is progressively losing her memory with the onset of Alzheimer's. Attempting to build a new home to make life easier for his wife he comes up against an unforgiving system represented by the officious government inspector (Jonathan Potts). Craig just wants to do things his way, on his land and to be independent. Not wanting to go into debt or sell off the land he has worked his whole life, he decides to do what his father did build a home. It's a simple story, beautifully rendered.
At first glance Craig seems cantankerous and stubborn to an outsider, refusing help from his family and friends he intends to care Irene single handily. Yet beneath the surface he is stubbornly self-reliant and strong. The cruelty of Alzheimer's throws up some challenges for the couple as Irene becomes dangerously incapable of looking after herself. She falls once and then again and their luck seems to be running out. Yet amidst the heartbreak of losing Irene to dementia there are still moments of deep tenderness. McGowan's finely crafted script captures the intense love and affection of two people ingrained in each others soul. The bedtime conversations of remembrances of a life spent remarkably happily. Even stripping down to enjoy a night of passion after 60 odd years of marriage brings a celebratory joy to the proceedings. In these moments Cromwell and Bujold create a lifetime together, and their chemistry is palpable.
The decision to shoot in New Brunswick lends the film authenticity and beauty. In many ways the picture is conventionally shot, no stylistic flourishes, no fanfare but it suits the tone of the piece. McGowan who has a mixture of TV and films to his credit, understands the power of words and character. In his actors he has two giants who bring this great story to life. Mumford and Sons contribute their talent to the soundtrack.
I won't repeat all the tributes given here by other reviewers. It's such a pleasure to see a film made with grown-ups in mind, a sensitive story based on real life and everyday occurrences. And, of course, you marvel at the outstanding acting of the main players.
It's hard to criticize the casting of James Cromwell in the lead role. He is magnificent. Yet in such a Canadian film--when his pride is confronted by narrow-minded bureaucrats, he never raises his voice, says "Have a good day" with just the lightest touch of sarcasm, does not burn down the house, or return to the government office with a shotgun--I had the niggling wish that the role had gone to a Canadian actor. Christopher Plummer might have been up for the job. But the thought of the job done by Cromwell makes such a reservation seem like a ridiculous, maybe narrow-minded quibble.
Listen to the score, too. It is quiet and subtle, very distinctive, at times haunting, sometimes sad, always barely at the threshold of your consciousness. I seem to remember much use of horns, but they are subdued, and set off against an unusual mix of other instruments.
Do see this film if you ever get the chance.
This is based upon a true story
What a wonderful pairing of Cromwell and Bujold. When we see Cromwell on screen we feel entirely comfortable with him (that is unless he is playing a bad guy, then look out) and his scenes with Genevieve Bujold are pure gold and much of that credit goes to Ms. Bujold. She is still a hot babe in her 80s and as we watch her we could very well see ourselves taking care of her and loving every minute of it. What we get to see are two beyond-excellence performances by both. Their banter is pure gold.
We feel for Craig as he suffers silently while trying his best to make Irene comfortable. He realizes she is getting worse, but that doesn't deter him.
He does try to follow the law and the building regulations imposed on all. However, he knows what he is doing exceeds many of those regulations. The problem is he doesn't stop construction to allow for inspections. In time he is taken to court.
We go along and hope we see Craig be successful in court. We don't get to see much of that and this was a big let-down. Since this is a true story, the court battles should have been shown, at least the most important parts. Didn't happen. Some of the earlier scenes could have been cut down or cut out so we would have time to see the court proceeding. Didn't happen. And, we waited especially for these moments. Bummer.
He has a baseball signed by Babe Ruth. My problem with this scene - as he handles the ball with his bare hands - is that the ball was not protected in one of those plastic baseball covers. Most people know not to allow greasy hands to touch such a prized and valuable baseball. Someone fell down on this job. Hey, the ball could have been wrapped in Saran Wrap or something. Didn't happen.
Also one would think the Babe Ruth baseball would have more or an impact on the story. Craig does use a baseball story to tell the judge about standards then and now and relates them to building construction now. That's as far as it went. Bummer.
One more thing: the title sucks. Not once in the movie does Craig bellow the words "Still Mine" referring, perhaps, to the land and the new house he owns as he knows exactly what he is doing. We waited in vain to hear these words. Didn't happen. Bummer.
Despite some misgivings above, this is an excellent story and we cringe along with Craig and hope Irene fares well. This is truly a wonderful love story. (9/10)
Violence: No. Sex: No. Nudity: Yes, partial. Language: Soft stuff only: GDIs, JCs
But if you have, this film will seem thinner -- in the rhythm, the performances, the harshness it confronts, the stiffness of the dialogue, the depth of the films' respective ellipses, and in its framing of the narrative in social satire -- ooh, that nasty bureaucracy -- rather than in Haneke's more sweeping depths of personal responsibility. Even allowing for her fading memory, Irene is marginalized in the film, undeveloped, especially in contrast to the Emmanuele Riva role in Amour. Irene's relations with her children are omitted altogether.
Still, it's a beautiful, moving film. For more see www.yacowar.blogspot.
Worst of all, Irene (Genevieve Bujold) his beloved wife of 61 years, is gradually but visibly descending into Alzheimers. Their old farmhouse takes too much wood to heat, and Irene can't get around like she used to. She absolutely refuses to move to town or go into a retirement home. So Craig decides to solve the problem by downsizing to a smaller, one-story house that he'll build across the road. He's got the whole project in his head, and he's perfectly capable of doing it all by himself (with a little help from his oldest son's backhoe to dig the foundation), from sawing the lumber to painting.
Unfortunately, the local building code official won't let him. He insists on a building permit, filed plans, inspector approved lumber, and full compliance with the code. Craig just wants to be left alone to finish the job, growing more determined as Irene's condition worsens. The inspector keeps stapling stop work orders to the framing, Craig keeps taking them down, and his final confrontation with the local authorities is inevitable.
This is a very Canadian telling of the story. If it happened south of the border, there would be bumper stickers on Craig's pickup, there would be shouting and expostulation, and there would probably be firearms involved. Not in New Brunswick. People are stubborn and principled, but everyone is quiet, everyone is decorous, and the forces of law and order politely grind their glacial way forward to a sensible resolution. It's a sad, sweet, beautifully played little movie with a happy ending, and definitely worth seeing.
Sometimes it can be amusing when a film title is not changed. I read many years ago, without verification but quite believably, that the British distributors of the American film, Free Willy, implored its producers to change the name for British audiences, explaining the title could easily be misconstrued. The Americans weren't having a bar of it and insisted the original title be used. I recall sitting in theatres as the film was trailed. Audiences fell about laughing as the sententious voice-over intoned 'Free Willy will touch you; your heart will ache for Free Willy' or words to that effect.
Why the Canadian drama Still needed its name changed to Still Mine for Australian audiences is unclear.
Like so many films being released recently, we are told at its beginning that the film is 'based on a true story'. Quite what that phrase means, and the licence it gives to film-makers, is open to the widest interpretation. It is a specious use of language. It allows writer and director to re-frame events, dissemble, misrepresent people, and, if challenged on points of veracity, hide behind the fact that it was never claimed to be a truthful recall.
Still Mine follows the story of octogenarian Craig Morrison (James Cromwell) who decides to build a smaller home on his 200 acres for he and his wife Irene (Geneviève Bujold) as she slips ever further into dementia. He knows what he's doing but is unfamiliar with modern-day planning regulations and his plans and actions fail to satisfy building laws. He gets into a stoush with the local council, whose employees are all shown as heartless, uncompromising automatons, and eventually ends up in Court for failing to comply with Stop notices.
James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold are both fine in their roles having to deliver some rather turgid dialogue on occasions. But overall the film is just too small-scale.
Direction from Michael McGowan, who also wrote the film, is uninspired. The film is set in rural New Brunswick yet it fails to give much sense of location. In telling such a minor story and putting it on the big screen, he really needed to draw the audience in. Had he interspersed low-key dramatic events with linking shots showing the magnitude of the land and the beauty of the changing seasons and ocean then the film would surely have been more suited to a cinema release. Yes I know it was never meant to be a travelogue. But as it stands, it simply has the feel of a hastily made TV movie of the 1970s with limited production values. The paying audience are entitled to more than this.
In a sense this movie is kind of a cliché. The male is the one that fends for his wife and protects her. He builds a house for her, in order to make his wife a little bit more comfortable and he fills himself with his love for her. Furthermore, because of his wealth and power he is able to sway the courts by using the media to point out his virtuoso building skills, which allows hims to by-pass regular building code regulations.
This movie does illustrate hierarchy and power structures and is no doubt a film for the rich about the rich. Perhaps the underlining theme is about finding a purpose in ones life (despite having money or no money) and holding true to the path that one follows.
This concept of holding true to ones true purpose, the one that is self-discovered, is a human trait found in many films, the one thing to be cautious of is a sense of selffishness. For example, in this movie the family, two grown up off-spring - seemed to have been worried about their parents, as some of their parents actions did seem unsafe and at times dangerous. I guess there is a fine line between finding ones own true path in life and at the same time being considerate to other peoples' needs.
In the best case, forfilling ones dream and being considerate and caring to other peoples needs is probably the most optimum result. However if one choose to make another happy other him/herself then this is, in my opinion, rarely achieved.