Still Life (3 stars)

Still Life

Credit: Red Wave - Embargo Films

Eddie Marsan shines in Uberto Pasolini's moving life-and-death drama

The quiet and contemplative Still Life casts Eddie Marsan in the leading role of John May, a Kennington-based funeral officer for Lambeth council, whose job it is to arrange the services of those who die alone and who have no relatives.

John is a man who takes his job very seriously. His sense of pride in his work leads him to go to great lengths in honouring the departed. He investigates each person's past as thoroughly as possible, piecing together their memories through their belongings, and writing heartfelt eulogies as a mark of respect to read out at their empty funerals. When John is told he is to be made redundant after 22 years' service it gives him a new lease of life. His content existence has been shaken up, and so he decides to put all his efforts into investigating his final case, which takes him across the country on a journey of discovery.

With his charming second feature, writer-director-producer Uberto Pasolini has created a potent and poignant exploration of love and death, solitude and the breakdown of community. Pasolini cites late Ozu as an influence, and the static images of London life are filled with a haunting familiarity and a reminder of life’s perpetual cycle. If occasionally its ideas are a little forced, the film always feels deeply sincere. Marsan is perfectly cast as John, conveying kindness and naivety in an entirely convincing, understated manner. Joanne Froggatt is also wonderful in a small but tender role.

Still Life shares many of the same themes as Carol Morley’s devastating documentary Dreams of a Life, although it possesses a more upbeat spirit, as we see John trying new things. In that sense, it has quite a bit in common with Stranger Than Fiction, but opts for the poetic rather than the meta.

Selected release from Fri 6 Feb.

Still Life | Official Trailer

Still Life

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • UK / Italy
  • 1h 32min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Uberto Pasolini
  • Written by: Uberto Pasolini
  • Cast: Eddie Marsan, Joanne Froggatt, Karen Drury
  • UK release: 6 February 2015

John (Marsan) is a funeral officer for Lambeth Council, who meticulously arranges funerals for those who die alone; with redundancy looming, he decides to make an extra effort on his final case. A potent and poignant exploration of love and death, with wonderful performances from Marsan and Froggatt.