It was unusual to see what seemed to be two small-government oriented films in as many days, and quadruply for one of those films, Still Mine, to be Canadian.
James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold play Craig and Irene, a married couple in their late 80s (! they’re both actually in their early 70s) who are starting to have a little trouble fitting in to the modern world.
By the way, the fact that they’re Canadian is never actually mentioned. They could be Midwestern. I suspect they figured that’d be better for the American box office. (The movie’s made about $300K domestically so far, so I don’t know if that’s right or not.)
Anyway, Irene is losing her mind, and Craig’s solution is to take some of their land (the portion with a better view) and build a new, smaller, more manageable house.
And when I say “build a house,” I mean personally build a house.
Awesome, right? I mean, just a 70-year-old building a house would be pretty cool. An 87-year-old even moreso. And of course he finds that building the house is therapeutic and rejuvenating and gives him a purpose and direction and vision he hasn’t had in a while.
Of course, the government wants to stop him. He’s got to have permits and inspections and licensing, and a whole lot of stuff he can’t afford because we live in a Nanny State. Doesn’t even matter that it’s Canada. It’d be the same anywhere in the Western world no doubt.
The movie never fails to show us the difference between the way we live today, and how these relics from the past live and have lived: Shunning debt, living simple lives without a lot of electronic gewgaws, being self-reliant, but also generous and supportive. Indeed, the couple’s history throughout decades results in support from a variety of corners when it is most needed.
James Cromwell is great, of course, who manages to play Craig without resorting to stereotypes. He’s good without being saintly. He’s crusty, even rough, and not always quick to apologize. He gets frustrated with Irene, but he can’t live without her.
Genevieve Bujold—well, what can I say? I’ve never been a fan. Never especially noticed her. She was amazingly photogenic, I guess, back in the day, but never really drew me in the movies. (I mean, if you go look at a still photo of her from her youth, she’s flawless, but I saw her in bunches of movies without even noticing her.) Until now.
She was completely charming in this. Dementia is a tricky thing to play, momentarily there and gone again. She was believable, sympathetic, vulnerable yet still with a kind of strength that made her plausible as a once self-sufficient farmer’s wife. (Well, at least the Hollywood version of one.)
Director Michael McGowan keeps it low key but lively, much like his 2004 film Saint Ralph. The Boy and The Flower both liked it, too. I think the key to that being that Cromwell is very likable and we all can relate to not liking to be told what to do by bureaucrats.
It’s not really political per se and it’s hard to imagine the people involved being anything less than die-hard leftists, but it’s hard (for me, at least) not to see a strong message about independence that’s anti-government.