Available on DVD from Mon 13 April 2015
Uberto Pasolini / UK / 2013 / 99 Mins
Poignant and sprinkled with dark humour, Still Life is a quiet tale about John May (Eddie Marsan), a council worker tasked with tracking down the relatives of the recently deceased who have died alone. When told his department is being downsized, he starts investigating his final case and at last begins living life himself.
Marsan gives a subtle and delicate performance, excelling at portraying a likeable but lonely character who is both diligent at his job and all too aware that he may suffer the same fate as those he investigates.
Still Life is a visually well-crafted film, with director Uberto Pasolini including lots of little touches that all add to the loneliness and isolation of his protagonist. One such inclusion is the appearance of May’s London flat, that has few, if any, personal decorations. In fact, like the photo album May keeps of the deceased he investigates, the flat is more of a shrine to their memories than his own life, with shelves stacked with the music his charges would have liked played as they were laid to rest. He is ultimately a bland man with an interesting job – the only time we see May lively and engaged is when he is going over the arrangements for a funeral. All this forces the audience to ask what kind of impression May would give if someone were investigating him; how well can we ever really know someone by the possessions they leave behind?
The final scene may prove divisive among viewers and gives the impression of being a tacked on in order to give the film a happier ending – which it does, succeeding in adding an extra dollop of sentimentality that tugs on the heartstrings. Though well-made and finely acted, however, Still Life sadly remains a bit like its lead character: unremarkable. There’s very little you can fault it on, but there isn’t much that stands out about it either.