STILL MINE. Starring James Cromwell, Genevieve Bujold, Campbell Scott, Julie Stewart, Rick Roberts, George R. Robertson, Barbara Gordon, Zachary Bennett. Directed by Michael McGowan. 102 minutes. Rated PG (adult themes).
Still Mine is a film about aging and mental deterioration. It is a film which will resonate very strongly with older audiences and also with those in their forties fifties and sixties who are thinking about their parents and what the future will bring for them. However, this is a film of strength and hope.
It is based on a true story, set in the province of New Brunswick, Canada. The location photography brings the town and of the surrounding countryside to life.
Central to the film is the character of Craig Morrison, played with great strength and determination by James Cromwell, who, after his turn as Farmer Hoggart in Babe, has appeared in many strong roles, a fine screen presence. As his wife, Irene, Canadian actress Genevieve Bujold, who in the past played Anne of the Thousand Days, gives a wonderful, unglamorous performance, slowly losing her memory, trying to cope with this, supportive of her husband as he is of her. In the story, they have been married for 61 years and have seven children, the story of their marriage told with delicacy, with intimacy.
The Canadian economy is in decline. Craig has to sell his cattle. He grows strawberries but they are rejected because they are not brought to the depot in un-refrigerated trucks. Because the family house has been so big, he decides to build a new one for Irene and himself. It is here where the difficulties really start. He relies on his own ability, learned from his father, his knowledge of lumber and cutting down trees and making planks to build the house. Suddenly, he is forbidden to build. He doesn’t have a permit, then he doesn’t have plans, then his wood is not stamped with approval. There is a threat to have the place bulldozed and he eventually goes to court. The bureaucracy tells him that he is disobeying rules. He makes the distinction between rules and standards and that his work is above standard.
Craig he is helped by one of his sons and is constantly advised by one of his daughters, a mixture of both Craig and Irene. When Irene is hospitalized, there is greater concern.
The audience is certainly on Craig’s side, even though we know he is a strong and stubborn man and needs to make some kind of compromise. It is when a friend with whom he has been sparring for many years dies and he weeps, we realize that he has great tenderness and that he has shown it to his wife for all the years.
Some commentators have made the link between Still Mine and Amour. The latter Oscar-winning film was intense, confined to the house, focusing on the couple and Alzheimers, with an intrusion by a zealous daughter. While it showed the great love and tenderness, and the stress on the husband, as Still Mine does, it does not have the scope of the down-to-earthness and hope that this Canadian film does. At the end, there is a credit to the Morrison family and indication that both Craig and Irene were still living at the time of the films initial release. He was 91.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out June 6, 2013.