What happens after we die is beyond our knowledge and control. Yet, our behaviour in this world can determine the way in which we leave it. What and who we leave behind is forever un-knowable and it is the sadness of leaving nothing behind us that forms the centre of Uberto Pasolini’s Still Life. Most of us take comfort in the likelihood that there will be people to mourn us in out absence. John May, the film’s central character, deals with those who aren’t fortunate enough to have crowds gathered around their coffins. John is responsible for finding the next of kin to those who have passed away in great solitude. John cares deeply about his work, seeing the importance in the grieving process and the joy of having people attend someone’s funeral. Whilst working on each case, John comes to know the dead client he is assisting. After building a mental profile of them and closing their case, he places their photo in an album. When his position within the council is placed in jeopardy he begins work on what could be his final case; more determined than ever to contact those who deserve to know about the recent passing of a lonely man.
Eddie Marsan brings a gentleness and a seriousness to his character, John. He is a subtle actor, under-praised as an artistic master of capturing the souls of so many troubled characters that he has played. Marsan’s understanding of his character, and his soft intensity, brings a real heart to a man who is on the right path towards his own empty funeral. He is a shadow of the people he honours in his work. Living his life with precision and caution he has become a loner, spending most of his days and nights in the presence of the dead. He spends his evenings pursuing the photos of the lonely individuals whose cases he has worked on. John’s photo album represents the film’s title. Life captures in a statue like state; lives that are over and now remain only in the form of photographs.The title may also refer to John himself. He is a kind man with a good soul but his is a frozen life, trapped in the shell of his insecurities and solitude. What begins with strong intention and promise, deviates into the unnecessarily sentimental and finishes with a sickly conclusion. Despite its dwindling towards the end, Still Life remains a thought-provoking piece of cinema; full of heart.
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