Still Life

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"A rare thing"
  • TV-14
  • 2013
  • 1 hr 32 min
  • 7.4  (8,607)
  • 45

Still Life is a poignant and delicately crafted drama directed by Uberto Pasolini, which explores the life of John May, a diligent council worker who has spent over 22 years of his life locating the next of kin for those who have died alone or unclaimed in London. With no relatives or friends to claim the remains, John's job is to organise their funerals, ensuring that these individuals are given a dignified farewell rather than being dispatched to a pauper's grave.

The film opens with John in his office, surrounded by stacks of files and photographs of deceased individuals, whom he refers to as "clients." May delves into his work with a passion that borders on an obsession. Even to his colleagues and superiors, he is an oddity. He has never taken a day off, nor a holiday, in the entire time he has worked for the council, and he takes his work extremely seriously. If the work is the only reason for his existence, then he shows no sign of regret when the council he serves decides that his service is no longer necessary, and forces him into retirement.

The film's emotional punch is delivered through the discovery that May is also socially isolated, living alone in a small flat with no friends or family to speak of. Despite a lifetime of human interaction in his work, John finds that his only friend is his own pen-pusher, a namby-pamby co-worker whom he visits for the occasional game of chess.

When he learns that one of his former clients, Billy Stoke, has died alone, John is compelled to track down his bewildered next of kin, a daughter who he believes is the only remaining relative. In the process of trying to find her, John's search for missed love and lost family is revealed.

Eddie Marsan’s performance as John May is a masterpiece of subtlety and nuance, mirroring the tender compassion his character has for his clients who often had no one to turn to. He depicts John as a man gliding through life, who never quite grasped the pain of others or his own. His performance in Still Life is one of his best and most understated, establishing Eddie Marsan as a leading actor. Joanne Froggatt, famous for playing Anna in Downton Abbey, perfectly captures the raw vulnerability of May's only friend, while Karen Drury shines as the daughter of Billy Stoke.

The pacing of the film allows for a slow unfolding, with quiet moments of reflection between John and his clients, allowing the audience to fully appreciate the humanity in John and what he does. Pasolini’s choice to show John's slow and meticulous search for Stoke's daughter, with the audience hoping for a miraculous discovery, shows the depth of John's compassion and the sense of isolation that he faces, despite his lifetime of service to the forgotten of society.

At its heart, Still Life is about the transient nature of life and the connections we make on the journey. The film paints a portrait of how individuals can have a significant impact on other people's lives, without ever fully understanding or experiencing those effects. It's a subtle reminder that despite loss, there is always something to cherish and be grateful for, even if it's just the knowledge that our existence has made a difference to others.

The film's cinematography is masterful, capturing the grey of London in all its beauty and showing the city as a metaphor for forgotten people. Visually, Pasolini makes excellent use of shadows and light to give the film a sense of melancholy, without resorting to outright sentimentality. The score is also outstanding, composed by Rachel Portman, who has won an Academy Award.

Overall, Still Life is a film that will leave a lasting impression on its viewers. It not only tells the story of a dedicated council worker, but also explores deeper themes of human connection and loss, and the importance of cherishing the people in our lives. It's a perfectly crafted film that will have you reflecting on your own existence and the impact it may have on others, long after the credits roll. If you're looking for a film that will touch your heart and leave you feeling enriched, Still Life is the perfect watch.

Still Life is a 2013 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 32 minutes. It has received mostly poor reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.4 and a MetaScore of 45.

Still Life
Where to Watch Still Life
Still Life is available to watch free on Peacock, Plex, The Roku Channel Free, Pluto TV, Tubi TV and Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, Apple TV Channels, The Roku Channel, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube VOD and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Still Life for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 32 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.4  (8,607)
  • Metascore