02 August, 2013

Review: "Still Mine" (****)

Campbell Scott and James Cromwell star in "Still Mine"

"Still Mine" has been on my radar since premiering in Toronto last fall—going so far as for me to incorrectly predict it as part of last year's Savannah Film Festival lineup. Writer-director Michael McGowan's latest film is notable for a number of reasons; the natural beauty of its New Brunswick setting, the articulate depiction of a saintly love story, but most of all for the dynamic leading performances by veterans Geneviève Bujold and James Cromwell—a perennial supporting actor.

A peaceful simplicity is McGowan's modus operandi, his vision evident throughout the film—from the photography and music, down to the storytelling and restrained performances. Though it lacks not in artistry, any more spirited a form of filmmaking and the project would have seemed over-the-top and at odds with our admirable, salt of the earth subjects. Echoing back to the high concentration of Celtic ancestry in the area, wistful strings and pipes wash over the aged trees and weathered rocks of the Maritimes, albeit with great subtlety. Brendan Steacy's cinematography is mostly inconspicuous, but has its moments that showcase some deep character—whether in the actors' faces, the changing of the seasons or in the wood grains that are so prevalent throughout the film.

Indeed, it is the actors who are responsible for the film's richness. Rick Roberts, Julie Stewart, Campbell Scott and George R. Robertson comprise a sympathetic chorus, but Bujold and Cromwell are the only ones you'll be watching—and appropriately so. Both former Oscar nominees put forward wonderful performances. Cromwell's long face and aquiline nose should be familiar to just about any modern movie watcher. While it was difficult for me to believe the 73-year-old actor was playing an 87-year-old, Cromwell makes the most of a rare leading role. He owns the film, but also owes a lot to his firm chemistry with Bujold. The love between the two is almost palpable, perhaps most evident in the voiceover conversations between the two as they are forced apart late in the film. Together, they represent both sides of the eternal age-versus-capability debate that is as complex as the lives led by anyone who reaches such esteemed years.

"Still Mine" draws comparisons from contemporaries like Sarah Polley's "Away from Her" and Michael Haneke's "Amour," but remains on the sweeter side of both. Though it might be considered to have less weight than its counterparts, it certainly makes for a more satisfying experience.

4 out of 5 stars.

"Still Mine" is now playing in Georgia, at United Artists Tara in Atlanta and at Lefont Theaters in Sandy Springs.

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