A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Eddie Marsan is a man with a supreme talent for acting. His efforts in the past have been highly believable and riveting to say the least.
His performance in “Still Life”, the 2014 drama with some darkly comical elements sprinkled within, may very well be his best performance in his career. Focusing primarily on the theme of death, the appropriately named “Still Life” generated little hype, exposure or excitement – much like a grave or something similar.
It proved to be an incredibly spirited piece with a lot of soul, especially given how small a film it ultimately was.
John May (Marsan) is a council case worker whose job involves him finding those associated with people who have recently passed away; in particular, those who are found on their own.
From the outset, it is obvious that the life May lives is quite dull and ‘lifeless’, so to speak. The lack of dialogue mixed with extensive shots that drag on work as an amplifier for mood, atmosphere and character.
Sitting at a desk for the majority of his working life, May is a sympathetic and endearing soul.
He is lonely, sweet and regimented in his highly structured life. His meticulous routines at home and work are obsessive and unwavering; they work very well in shaping the sort of man he is.
After being informed that his department is downsizing, May approaches his last ever case with a lot more passion, aiming to benefit those involved as well as himself for a change.
This is a film that paces along quite slowly but enthrals the audience nonetheless. Dull, deadpanned and flat for the most part, “Still Life” has a similar effect on an audience to a film such as 2013’s “Nebraska” – another endearing poignant tale that focuses primarily on the elderly. It sounds boring, uninteresting and tedious, but “Still Life” is packed full of substance and meaning, it truly is a joy to watch.
A noticeable feature of the prodding dullness that ironically adds investment into the film is the shade of white. There are only a handful of shots within the film that do not have white (or a dull grey at least) as the dominant colour.
When focusing on death almost entirely, one would think black would be the appropriate symbolic choice, however white seems to stand for so much more. White is the predominant feature that continues to pop up in almost every shot of the film, and as it progresses, white begins to represent everything from luck, hope, change and even life itself.
It may be looking too far into it, but it would come as no surprise if this was a deliberate choice to have the shade of white be the cinematographic nucleus from which most symbolic references evolve.
From ice cream to walls and even a coffin – white is everywhere in “Still Life”, and it is incredibly powerful.
Another technique that the film utilises superbly is the ‘bookend’ theme. There are certain shots within the film that tend to repeat themselves almost identically. With the slight changes in each, it shows broken routine and most importantly – change. In amongst the bookending shots, the other dominant technique of foreshadowing works exceptionally well to add intrigue to the progression of the narrative.
As previously mentioned, Eddie Marsan gives an exceptional performance that may very well be career best. The primary supporting role of Kelly Stoke (played by “Downton Abbey’s” Joanne Froggatt) also proves to be an excellent choice. Froggatt’s emotions and endearing presence within the film work so well, particularly when engaging with May.
Along May’s journey of discovery, he encounters a mixed bag of characters, all of which are brilliant in their own way. Most have only a scene devoted to them, but what actors such as Michael Elkin, Tim Potter and Andrew Buchan are able to provide is highly commendable.
A spur of the moment choice, “Still Life” was one that was engaging on a spiritual and emotional level. It is heavily localised in terms of narrative, but at the same time, the messages and symbols it evokes are much, much bigger.
The subject of enormous praise from family members, this was a lovely little picture that will most likely (and upsettingly) go unnoticed in amongst the barrage of superhero films dominating our cinema programmes today.
With brilliant performances all round and marvellous craftsmanship, “Still Life” is in the running for a spot on the “Top Ten Films of 2014” list, and a good spot at that.