This Canadian film, based on a true story, starts out like it’s going to be a courtroom drama: an elderly David facing the Goliath of an inflexible bureaucracy and the legal system. But that’s only a strand of this well-acted, moving tale.
The Morrisons, Craig (James Cromwell) and Irene (Genevieve Bujold) have been together on their farm for more than 60 years. When Irene starts to get forgetful, Craig decides to build a new, one-storey house on the property that will be smaller and easier to live in. But although he’s a skilled carpenter and eager to get on with it, he faces opposition: his adult children wonder if he’s up to the task and if it is best for them both to remain on the farm.
And, more seriously, when the local authorities get wind of it, he’s up against red tape, an intransigent bureaucrat (Jonathan Potts) and, eventually, a stop-work order that results in a court case – all the while keeping a close, anxious eye on his wife’s condition. Sometimes he might seem a little obstinate and unreasonable, but you get the sense he’s a man who’s used to his independence and who wants to keep himself busy as a way of coping.
The legal battle is always in the background but writer-director Michael McGowan is more interested in the personal, especially the relationship between Craig and Irene. The always good Cromwell is excellent as the proud, stoic man who sometimes finds his wife’s condition hard to deal with and Bujold is equally good, loving and a little desperate as she finds herself deteriorating, mentally and physically.
This isn’t as bleak a film as the recent Amour, which also dealt with an elderly couple and dementia, but it’s not sickly sweet, either. There’s a sense of community created – among others, we see some of the couple’s seven adult children, grandchildren, and a neighbouring couple with whom Craig has a sometimes feisty relationship as well as a lawyer who tries to help – and while some characters are sketched rather than fleshed out and some details skimmed over, we get what we need in order to care about the people and their situation. And we do.
ROB CEREBANO – CANBERRA TIMES