Bring a handkerchief, or possibly a bedsheet, to “Still Mine”; this fact-based, beautifully acted drama could wring tears from a brick. Craig Morrison (James Cromwell) is a New Brunswick farmer in his late 80s, happily married for many decades to his wife, Irene (Geneviève Bujold), keeping himself busy around the farm (“retirement” is not in this stoic gentleman’s vocabulary), enjoying a small-town rural life. But when Irene’s memory begins to fail, Craig decides it’s time to downsize: He’ll build the two of them a new house, compact and easily accessible, on a pretty lakeview lot that’s part of the many acres of his farmland.
Craig, though, is not the sort to worry about permits and regulations — he’s just going to build the house the way his father, a shipbuilder, taught him, with lumber he and his son cut and milled from trees on his property. And so begins a series of run-ins with local government, which eventually issues a stop-work order: He hasn’t supplied them with plans in advance; he hasn’t used government-approved wood and windows; he is to officials, in short, a dangerous renegade in need of reining in. But Craig placidly continues his work; he can see the light dimming in Irene’s eyes and knows he’s running out of time.
In Michael McGowan’s gentle film, we see the house quickly becoming much more than wood and nails: it’s a symbol, for Craig, of an independent life, and of a story not yet finished. Cromwell and Bujold are deeply touching as a couple who understand each other without needing many words, just as McGowan’s camera tells us stories without dialogue: lingering on a homemade dining table, covered with scratches and marks and memories of handwriting, or on a smudgy array of height marks on a wall. You leave “Still Mine” wanting to know more about the real Craig Morrison (the story, from what I learned from newspaper reports, is pretty close to what we see in the movie), quietly cheering him on.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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