Still Life…a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

July 19, 2014 by Roz Tarszisz
Read on for article

Funerals are meant for the living. Still Life opens intriguingly with the same solitary figure at a series of burial services.

John May (Eddie Marsan) has worked at his local South London council for 22 years. Calm and methodical, he spends his days tracing the next of kin of local residents who have died alone and often had not been found for weeks.

He painstakingly tracks down their estranged families only to find they usually don’t want to be involved.   But on John May’s watch, the unclaimed dead get a decent send-off at council expense, and he is there to ensure things are properly done.

John lives alone and leads a solitary and orderly life. When he closes a case, he puts photographs of the departed in his own album. It is yet another way he shows respect for his charges. It may sound morbid but it’s not.

Even when John learns he’s to be made redundant, he still insists on closing his last case, that of a Billy Stoke. John travels far and wide talking to Billy’s family and friends and finally tracks down Billy’s daughter, Kelly (Joanne Frogatt), and they make a connection. When Kelly eventually agrees to come to London for her father’s funeral, John’s mood lifts even though he will soon be out of a job.

A quirky and charming story despite its subject matter, there is some gentle humour and a scene where John drinks whiskey with two of Billy’s homeless pals is both funny and unexpected.

For his second feature Uberto Pasolini, has written and directed a tale inspired by real people and events, and his unassuming public servant with a big heart rings true. Marsan is wonderful in the role and makes us want John to have a warmer life with more people in it, preferably living.

To watch his face crumple slightly during a phone call is a lesson in acting minimalism.

With an upbeat if ironic ending, the subject matter is thought-provoking. How many people have died alone and unmourned in your neighbourhood?


3.5 out of 5

Starring Eddie Marsan and Joanne Frogatt

Length 92 mins                Rated M

Written and Directed by Uberto Pasolini

In cinemas 24 July 2014


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