"Still Life" is a shrug of a movie, filled with micro gestures that gain traction in its final minutes. By then the narrative damage is done.
Despite Eddie Marsan’s shrewd performance the movie never lives up to its novel premise. When the end credits roll you’ll still be waiting for something, anything to start.
Marsan plays John May, a London councilman charged with finding the next of kin for people who died alone. It’s a thankless gig, but he treats every death with a dignity reserved for heads of state.
When John is fired by a number-crunching bureaucrat (Andrew Buchan, making the most of a stereotype), he decides to pour all his resources into one last case.
Why does he care so much about these lost souls? And is he any more animated than the deceased under his charge?
‘Still Life” keeps us removed from John’s personal life, one that mirrors the loneliness of his “clients.” He works tirelessly just to come home to a dinner of canned tuna and toast.
You can hear Marsan’s fingers snapping photographs against his hardwood desk, the kind of precision he brings to every movement. The film goes to great lengths to show his precise methods, a maddening and pointless attention to detail. He’s a sad sack too busy to acknowledge his own fate, but by the 15th time we watch him slowly put things in order we certainly get the point.
Writer/director Uberto Pasolini ladles on John’s coping skills in an orgy of OCD efficiency, but there’s precious little in the story to grab us. It’s like the least involving detective story ever told, one without shocks, surprises or anything to raise a single eyebrow.
When John connects with the daughter of a man he’s in charge of burying the film’s temperature raises a degree, maybe two. “Still Life” has one last twist, but it’s one that makes everything before it feel downright chipper by comparison.
DID YOU KNOW: Eddie Marsan studied as an apprentice printer before switching gears and attending drama school.
HiT Movie Review: ‘Still Life’