Small, tender moments portray honest take on graceful ageing

 

Date: May 30, 2013

Reviewed by Sandra Hall

 

A triumph for its two leads: Genevieve Bujold and James Cromwell in Still MinePhoto: Supplied

Reviewer rating: Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Drama

Director: Michael McGowan

OFLC rating: PG

Still Mine

Written and directed by Michael McGowan
102 minutes, rated PG
Hoyts Paris, Dendy Opera Quays, Chauvel, 
Randwick Ritz, Collaroy, Avalon, from June 6

Reviewer’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

There are many stratagems for facing old age with dignity, style and a generous measure of independence and more movies are testing them out.

Some reach heartening conclusions. Others offer no hope. Michael Haneke’s Amour sits at the darkest end of the spectrum and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel capers around at the other. Its oldies do better than recapture their youth. They get the chance to remake it in new and gaudier colours.

Canadian director Michael McGowan’s Still Mine is more closely aligned with reality, while avoiding the black depths that Haneke charted. Yes, Genevieve Bujold’s Irene Morrison is suffering from dementia but her husband, Craig (James Cromwell), is endowed with enough optimism, strength and determination to see them both through. And he has an added stimulus. In his bid to secure their future together, he has to overcome his natural enemy, the forces of bureaucracy.

McGowan was inspired to make the film after reading a news story about Morrison, a farmer in New Brunswick on the spectacularly beautiful Bay of Fundy. At 87, Morrison decided to simplify his and Irene’s household routine by moving out of their homestead to a smaller, one-storey house he himself would build on their land.

His building and carpentry skills had been taught to him in his youth by his father, a shipwright, and he set to work, felling his own timber, cutting it up and having it milled by one of his sons. Then he was forced to concede he would need a building permit, which he grudgingly purchased, and the battle was joined as the authorities started monitoring every step he took.

McGowan’s script doesn’t spell out all the details. That would be another kind of film. He concentrates on the Morrisons’ 61-year marriage and it turns out to be a triumph for his two leads. Bujold, who’s 70 playing 80, went without make-up for the part, tied her long, grey hair in a ponytail and settled for a uniform of shapeless trousers and a lumpy black belted jacket worn indoors and out. Yet there are still traces of the gamine star of her heyday during the 1970s and ’80s.

And Cromwell, too, maintains an unbreakable connection to his younger self. The wry smile, the lanky frame and the loping stride all signify a character who is not going to let the years rob him of his self-sufficiency. And neither of them has forgotten how to flirt. Irene’s short-term memory may be damaged but she vividly remembers the highlights of their early days together – along with one or two of their more turbulent patches.

They have brought up seven children together and each one worries about them but none can shift Craig in his conviction that he alone can ensure his and Irene’s continuing life together. His fond but nosey neighbour, Chester (George R. Robertson) with whom he shares a testy friendship, can’t influence him either. They’ve been irritating one another for years.

It’s a film built of small, tender moments infused with the tinder-dry wit which still enlivens the Morrisons’ conversations.Yet McGowan doesn’t hold back when it comes to the bad times.

Best of all, he never turns them into lovable old fogeys demanding our indulgence. They remain what they’ve always been – two resourceful people doing their best with the hand they’ve been dealt.

 Twitter: @SandraHFilm