Still Life stars Eddie Marsan as John May, a council worker who looks for relatives of the deceased and arranges paupers funerals in the absence of anyone else, as well as the scattering of ashes for cremations. His job also entails going into the homes of the deceased, searching for a link to their past in order to find potential relatives.
John works in a very solitary fashion, rarely communicating with anyone else – rather unlike the modern offices of today which are all open plan. He’s very prim and proper and does things to exacting standards, and only refers to colleagues as Mr and Mrs, rather than their first name. He’s rare in that he’s an old-fashioned man with a kind heart, living in a modern world which doesn’t care.
Unfortunately, for him, the council’s new round of “efficiency savings” means he’s out on his ear. I could argue that that is something which would happen only in a private company and not a public sector one like a County Council wherer they would offer redundancy packages on a voluntary basis, but anyway…
Having lost my father in January, although he had a family to deal with all his affairs after he passed away, it did make me wonder what things would have been like if he hadn’t. No doubt, a complete stranger like John May would’ve been going through his effects. It’s quite depressing to know that what’s on screen is also how some people would have lived, but that evokes a more powerful drama as a result and it’s one that no doubt will have been inspired by personal tales, also giving us an insight how some people must’ve lived.
In fact, Still Life is a bit reminiscent of BBC1’s Heir Hunters, when they try to match money left behind with relatives of the deceased, although the difference is that John dealing more with funeral matters.
Although mostly a single-hander, there’s good support from the lovely Joanne Froggatt as Kelly, the daughter of one of the deceased, as well as Karen Drury – best known for playing foxy MILF Susannah Farnham in Brookside – later, as the Mary in “Mary’s Plaice” (a fish & chip shop), and she proves that at nearly 57, she’s still got it! Sadly, neither of them are in it as much as I’d like, and you get the impression from the publicity that Ms Froggatt is in it more than she is.
If I had a moan, it’s that it’s not that believeable how John would travel the length and breadth of the country to find relatives, since surely there would be cross-office support and a case could be referred on to find someone, especially to somoene who would know the local area far better. But this is the movie world 🙂
There are also some elements to which show John’s a bit on the strange side, but to go into detail would be a spoiler.
Safe to say that Eddie Marsan consolidates his role as one of Britain’s finest actors in this role, where he gives a very understated performance, but he plays a character with whom who you’d really want to go for a pint.
Quite easily, Still Life is one of the best films I have seen so far this year.
Go to page 2 for the presentation and the extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.