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Review: Still Life

Its fixation on life’s quotidian aspects gives way to a less imaginative focus on an inevitable and overly familiar romance.

2.5
Still Life
Photo: Tribeca Film

John May (Eddie Marsan) leads a lonely existence as a modest clerk charged with looking for the next of kin of those who’ve died alone. After his rigorously constructed world is upended with the news that he’s to be fired, he convinces his superiors to let him finish his final case: finding the daughter of a deceased man who lived across the way from him. Through the preciseness of John’s apartment and office, even to the attentive way the man cuts through an apple, director Uberto Pasolini outlines the clerk’s methodical personality as a series of still lifes. Pasolini, then, uses the power of implication to align John’s work, which is built on observing a deceased’s physical possessions and living arrangements in order to find relatives (and in some cases write eulogies), with the audience’s act of studying him so to gain insight into his persona. But this fixation on life’s quotidian aspects gives way to a less imaginative focus on John’s search for Kelly (Joanne Froggatt) and their inevitable, overly familiar romance. Her sudden introduction, which conveniently makes available the possibility of intimacy he presumably gave up on long ago, scans as a desperate means to inject the story with a contrived narrative thrust. Still, even when the film behaves less as a contemplative and assured characters study and more as a rote courtship drama, Pasolini never fully loses sight of John’s unwavering empathy for the deceased, sensitively and unfussily foregrounding the man’s unassuming and generally unchecked kindness in the face of so much loss.

Cast: Eddie Marsan, Joanne Froggatt, Karen Drury, Andrew Buchan, Neil D’Souza Director: Uberto Pasolini Screenwriter: Uberto Pasolini Distributor: Tribeca Film Running Time: 92 min Rating: NR Year: 2013 Buy: Video

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