Love Can Build a Home
In 2012, Michael Haneke’s Amour garnered multiple Oscar nominations — and one win — for its unflinching look at an elderly couple and the difficult choices that come with aging. Still Mine (opening at Magnolia Theatre on Friday, July 26) is not as harrowing as that film, but it explores similar themes with an equally compelling story.
At its center are Craig and Irene Morrison (James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold), a real-life couple in the province of New Brunswick in Canada who have owned thousands of acres of land for decades. Their profession is farming, and they’re good at it. But changing times and their own age mean it is not as lucrative as it once was.
Writer/director Michael McGowan does an excellent job of showing the details of the Morrisons' life without ever getting bogged down in them.
With Irene showing increasing signs of memory loss, Craig decides to build a new, smaller house that would fit them better. But he soon runs afoul of the local property board for not acceding to their rules and codes, despite his having more than enough knowledge and skill to build his own home.
It’s a small-town story if ever there was one, but the dueling frustrations Craig feels at the deterioration of his wife and the government red tape make it a winning one. Writer/director Michael McGowan does an excellent job of showing the details of the Morrisons' life without ever getting bogged down in them, which keeps the story moving forward.
It’s also one of those films that makes you appreciate the elegance and simplicity of on-location shooting. Set in tiny St. Martins, the rural setting is a big help in establishing the tone of the film. Seeing both the Morrisons’ old house and proposed new one sit on the same piece of massive property puts you right in their shoes, making you understand exactly what’s at stake for them.
Although a bit too young to match Morrison’s stated age, Cromwell otherwise is a perfect fit in the role. The former TV actor has had a heck of a second career in movies, impressing in films as different as Revenge of the Nerds, Babe and L.A. Confidential. He plays Craig as gruff and stuck in his ways, but he is also thoughtful and reasonable — not always an easy balance.
Bujold is a legend of Canadian cinema, but she’s barely known on this side of the border. She’s a quiet force here, never getting a showy moment but always holding your attention when she’s onscreen. Other supporting actors complete the feel of small-town living effectively.
Still Mine is another look at enduring love that deserves to be seen by a larger audience than it’s likely to get. Far from depressing, it uplifts with its show of commitment and determination.