'Still Life' an understated indie gem

Friday , February 20, 2015 - 12:00 AM

By Rich Bonaduce
Standard-Examiner correspondent

Its charms are immediate and rewarding, as “Still Life,” written and directed by Uberto Pasolini, asks you to slow down and consider the life of unassuming caseworker John May, wonderfully played by the great Eddie Marsan.

May’s job is to track down the relatives of those who have died alone, and he earnestly takes his job to heart, often providing the dead with a dignity they may have never experienced in life. Part public servant, part painstaking sleuth, May takes what little he learns from the personal affects of the unknown dead and crafts touching eulogies usually delivered by a state-sponsored facilitator for his ears only.

Marsan is perfectly cast, and his performance is both nuanced and potent. Meanwhile, his John May is also perfectly suited to a thankless job; delivering bad news to long-lost relatives who may not even care to hear. May is kind and thoughtful, and his job takes someone with great sensitivity, but May is also himself alone. He may be so structured and duteous that it’s difficult for him to make relationships with the living. He presents the image of a man who is sad and lonely, but he certainly has purpose.

When his job is lost to downsizing, he throws himself into resolving one last case, and in so doing he touches the lives of perfect strangers. Accompanied by a delicate and moving score that always nudges and never intrudes, “Still Life” also has a slow pace as methodical as John May. Poignant and tender without being heavy-hearted, it boasts a final act that may be unexpected and even hokey to some, but had me welling up with emotion.

REVIEW

  • THE FILM: ‘Still Life’
  • CRITIC RATING: ***
  • PLAYING: Art House Cinema 502, 158 25th St., Ogden. 94 minutes.
  • MPAA RATING: Not Rated

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