(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to write a paragraph and create a poem from the words in it. Thus, I drew from the first two paragraphs of my review below, which I wrote first, and rearranged the words into a bit of free verse.)
Marriage can be a big deal
When young, focused on opportunities,
Strong and of the opinion that a relationship
Leads to an empire declining.
But when the enduring,
The building, the well-acted long-suffering,
The stubborn not letting go is decades-long
It is prized by the two that are one.
Even with health slowing,
Faithfulness deteriorates not.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for language and a non-explicit bedroom scene)
The movie industry invariably favors the young, so strong roles for older actors and actresses are prized opportunities. One example that got awards attention was 2015’s 45 Years, which was well-acted but depressingly focused on how easily a decades-long marriage can fall apart. Still Mine is like the anti-45 Years, with James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold showing the long-suffering faithfulness of a moving and enduring relationship, yet it didn’t get much notice outside its native Canada, despite being a far better film in my opinion.
Based on a true account, Cromwell plays Craig Morrison, the owner of several hundred acres in New Brunswick and a small farm empire that includes lumber, strawberries, and cattle. Now that he’s in his eighties, he’s slowing down and letting go of parts of his business, yet his wife Irene’s declining health leads him to start building a smaller house not far from their current one, which is now too big for the two of them. Decades before, that may have been no big deal, but it doesn’t take long for Craig to come into conflict with government bureaucrats, who insist that his unauthorized building (even on his own land) violates regulations. As Irene deteriorates into dementia, Craig must care for her and prove how stubborn he can be when he knows he’s in the right.
Cromwell gives an outstanding performance, the kind that makes you wonder why he’s never won an Oscar, though he did win the Canadian equivalent for this very role. He and Bujold share a tender warmth together, which swings from humorous reminiscences to extreme frustration yet remains unshakable. One conversation even reveals Irene’s jealousy over one of Craig’s past loves, and while that was the entire conflict of 45 Years, it’s a mere footnote in this love story. Craig’s interactions with his worried kids, nosy neighbors, and intractable bureaucrats confirm him as a willful but competent man whose decades of experience are not something to be underrated.I’m torn on how to rank Still Mine. I feel like it could be List-Worthy, but there’s something keeping me from being sure, so I’ll err on the side of caution and name it a high Runner-Up. Cromwell is at his best here with a script that calls out the narrow demands of government overregulation while painting an affectionate picture of long-suffering love with both humor and pathos. It makes me think I ought to explore what other gems Canada has to offer.
Best line: (Craig, to one of his grandsons) “You mean to tell me you’re nine years old and no one’s told you who Babe Ruth is yet?”
(grandson) “No, how old are you?”
(grandson) “Do you know who Drake is?”
(grandson) “Then we’re even.”
Rank: List Runner-Up (a very high one)
© 2018 S.G. Liput
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