Genre: Drama, Comedy
Directed by: Uberto Pasolini
Starring: Eddie Marsan, Joanne Froggatt
Still Life follows the latter part of a British council worker’s career, whose daunting job is to research and find the next of kin of individuals who’ve passed away. John May, played by Eddie Marsan, is truly dedicated to his job, spending what is presumed to be countless hours combing through sentimental possessions of the recently deceased, from numerous photo albums to personal objects. He seizes each and every opportunity to provide these deceased strangers, who he treats as his dear friends, with the respect and gratitude they may deserve.
Marsan’s serious character is a solitary man, who seems content with his introverted lifestyle. May is obsessive compulsive in nature, both within his work and personal life. He evokes a dedicated and meticulous lifestyle entwined with quirky humorous episodes throughout the narrative, from his seemingly daunting, repetitive hours at his office desk to his tedious, meager home meal of a single can of tuna, a slice of white bread and an apple.
As director, Pasolini expertly executes the recurring scenes of May in his office space and home in order to utilize a significant amount of deep space. Often you see the main character enveloped by the background of his surroundings. This signifies how focused and meticulous May is with his work and shows the great distance between him and the town outside. Pasolini very rarely shows other individuals passing by in the distance to evoke an acute sense of solidarity. He gives the audience a great deal of opportunity throughout the film to reflect and imagine as the camera focuses on a particular subject such as May’s lunch or a closed photo album. These poetic and touching focuses let the viewer visualize the former lives of the deceased that May holds so dear.
After his council manager, played by Andrew Buchan, downsizes his practice and thus decides to let May go due to the costly budget of numerous funerals planned, May pleads to take on the last case, a deceased man named William “Billy” Stoke. Following steadfast research, he personally approaches the daughter of the deceased Billy Stoke, played by Downton Abbey actress Joanne Froggatt.
After working tirelessly on the Stoke case, May reluctantly decides to ask his council manager for a few extra days. Despite discovering that his position has already been terminated, he does not relent and decides to take on the case as his personal responsibility, using his own finances to fund further investigations as he paves the way forward to what ultimately becomes a touching and redeeming journey.
The film’s steady plot cascades into an unpredictable ending that brings forth a haunting perspective of what it truly means to die alone.