Day 3 of the Sarasota Film Festival – Sunday, April 7th, 2013
Today I had the good fortune to see a marvelous film down from Canada. Now this film entitled Still Mine is not just some indie looking for exposure and making the rounds of film festivals. No sir. This film is already a big time film. It already has a deal and will be our theaters in June.
James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold are the leads and they portray an elderly couple who own 2000 acres of farm land in St. Martin, New Brunswick, Canada. Cromwell’s character is Craig Morrison. He’s an 87-year-old farmer who still has plenty of go-power. Bujold as Irene Morrison, is still sharp but to be honest, she has good days and bad days. You see, she’s dealing with the encroaching and debilitating disease of dementia.
They’ve been married for 61 years, and have raised 7 children. Their home is not in the best of shape, it’s far closer to ramshackle than saleable, and dealing with the New Brunswick winters is difficult. Beyond that, they now need a single story home because of Irene’s disease.
Only they haven’t enough money to hire a builder and a construction crew and the requisite sub-contractors.. They already have the land, so Craig decides to build the house himself. He refuses any and all help from his children.
His fierce independence is matched only by his stubbornness, and that is matched by his devotion to his wife. Make no mistake, this idea, to put up the house himself, is not the least bit foolhardy or ill-conceived. Not only does he have the tools, and the equipment, he also has the know how.
Craig’s father long ago taught his son how to look at a tree and be able to visualize the finished lumber; how to look at milled and finished lumber and know its strengths; and with the knowledge of the strengths of the wood, how to take a stack of lumber and build a house with it.
What Craig hasn’t got is an understanding of today’s modern building codes. He doesn’t work from blue prints, he doesn’t know he needs a permit to build a home even on his own land, and he’s never heard that even the lumber must be inspected and stamped by the authorities.
But the work proceeds. The structure slowly rises. Then one day, a building inspector comes by and asks to see the permit, and the plans, and the blue prints. Of course, Craig has none of those things.
Naturally, the building inspector is as head strong and determined as Craig – but there’s one difference. The building inspector knows the law, and the building codes. So they square off – on one side we have an old and stubborn and independent guy. Everything he needs to know about putting up a house is in his head, his heart, and he has years of experience.
But the Planning Office Inspector is not going away, nor will he bend. Craig has to do it their way or else. The or else begins with a Stop Work Order. Which Craig ignores. Things escalate. The Inspector says if Craig doesn’t get what is necessary done – the house will fall beneath a bulldozer.
Craig: Is that a threat?
Inspector Daigle: No – it’s the law!
So Craig is stressed. The family is stressed. He tries to comply. He doesn’t sleep. He worries. He ponders the situation. The whole town knows the smallest details.
Meanwhile, Irene has fallen down some steps. Her condition worsens. Old Craig will eventually say – Either I am going into jail or I’m going home.
There’s your set up. By the way, this film is based on a true story. Cromwell is simply outstanding as the 87 year Craig Morrison. Cromwell himself is 73 in real life. But his naturalistic performance is mesmerizing. He commands the screen and he does so without resorting to shuffles, wheezes, tics, or any other kind of actor’s tricks of a geriatric nature. . He’s not playing a cantankerous, or crotchety old man. He’s playing an old man whose grandchildren call him Grampie and love him.
If you loved Cromwell in Babe, or in L.A. Confidential, or I-Robot, or The Green Mile, you’ll love him once again in Still Mine. As for Bujold, her star may not have ever sparkled as brightly as it did 44 years ago when she starred as Anne Boleyn and played opposite Richard Burton in Anne of the Thousand Days and more than held her own. Here she gives us peek at her strengths which must be evident to have stayed in a marriage for more than 6o years. She shows us a vulnerability not based on the advancing dementia, but more accurately is based on the knowledge that her days are dwindling.
Be aware that the film never gets melodramatic, or maudlin. It gets a hold of you, and it’s not like you’re pummeled with sad scenes, or clobbered with over written and over produced dramatic effects. Rather it seems realistic and heartfelt.
Written and directed by Michael McGowan – this is a gem of a movie. In fact this film was nominated for seven, yes that’s SEVEN of Canada’s top movie awards:
1) Best Picture
2) Best Actor (Cromwell)
3) Best Actress (Bujold)
4) Best Orignal Screenplay (McGowan)
5) Best Cinematography (Brendan Steacy)
6) Best Editing (Roderick Deogrades)
7) Best Original Score ( Hugh Marsh, Don Rooke, and Michelle Willis)
Cromwell walked off with the gold for Best Actor.
Yes, it is a love story, and yes, the lead characters portray an elderly couple – but don’t let that stop you. I’m giving the film a four point five on a scale of one to five and I am heartily recommending the film.
You will laugh, you’ll shed a few tears, but mostly you will thoroughly enjoy this film. Thanks to Tom Hall and his connections with a family named Goldwyn for bringing this film to the SFF. Make sure you see this film later this year. Check out the HD trailer below.