Written and directed by Uberto Pasolini, producer of The Full Monty and Bel Ami; Still Life explores death with a fittingly sombre outlook. Eddie Marsan plays John May, a council worker in South London, whose job is to find the next of kin of people who have recently passed away in the community. Like some kind of death-detective, May must piece together the clues left behind by the often lonely and reclusive, in an attempt to craft a funeral around what they would have liked. A bit of a loner himself, when he is informed that his latest case will be his last one, he becomes determined to track down the loved ones of the deceased and in the process begins to make connections with the living.
Tackling the subject of death, Pasolini makes a respectful and contemplative drama that will take some time to mentally digest long after you’ve seen it. Still Lifeis a quiet film, for the most part internalising what it’s trying to say, occasionally to frustrating effect. It’s a film that shows you, but doesn’t tell you what to think or feel; that asks big questions but doesn’t necessarily give you the answers. In this respect Still Life is very much an individual experience, one that will create different reactions depending on a persons individual beliefs and feelings when it comes to death. Ultimately, I’d be surprised if it didn’t make anybody who sees it, burst into tears in the films final few moments, as the film suddenly diverts from the path of cliche to one that is much more spiritual and moving.
Don’t be fooled by the above poster; Still Life is far from the romantic comedy I was lead to believe. It’s a slow-burning, muted film and that is reflected in the cinematography that lacks any real colour at all. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all and Pasolini should be applauded for making something more rewarding for the soul and mind, as opposed to conforming to the generic template that is implied by the films marketing. Headlined by Eddie Marsan, an actor who most would associate with the role of the sidekick or thug, his performance as the lonely John May is truly revelatory and it’s his nuance and believability that helps make Still Life so watchable.
Still Life is a thoughtful and touching film that for the most part may not be particularly memorable, but packs a big enough emotional punch in the films final moments that will make you want to re-visit it.
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