Opens Fri., Aug. 2 at Harvard Exit. Rated PG-13. 103 minutes.
You could call this Canadian melodrama of octogenarians aging in place the anti-Amour, since it embraces all the affirmative sentiment that Michael Haneke eschews. Instead, building upon a true incident in New Brunswick, writer/director Michael McGowan posits a much gentler entry into the great senescence. Married 60 years, Craig (James Cromwell) and Irene (Geneviève Bujold) live in the same decrepit farmhouse where they raised seven kids. (Only two figure in the story, thankfully.) Still spry at 87, Craig fells timber on his 2,000 acres and mills planks in the woodshed. As Irene exhibits signs of memory loss, he decides to retire the cows and crops to build their final dream house—small and efficient on one level, using his land, lumber, and construction know-how.
In this scenic coastal province full of self-sufficient rural folk, in a country that’s famously (if stereotypically) polite and reasonable, who’s the villain of Still Mine? The pasty bureaucracy that oversees land use and construction! “Why would I need a permit?” asks a flustered Craig, his project half-completed. “This is my land.” In an American movie infused with Tea Party anger, an armed standoff might ensue. But there are no guns or threats here; Craig’s lawyer (Campbell Scott) gives him reasonable advice; and Craig’s adult children are gently rebuffed for trying to help. “I can manage,” he insists, and Cromwell’s unfussy but affecting performance fits that flinty, independent spirit. Craig and Irene are loving but not frivolous; they’re old enough to have been shaped by the Great Depression. Nothing gets thrown out, and there’s a distrust of filigree and pomp. Together, Cromwell and Bujold create a poignant portrait of marriage under constant, faithful repair—if one partner falters, the other picks up the slack (doctors, lawyers, and bureaucrats be damned).
That said, Amour and the similar Away From Her were much better entries in the genre of decline-with-dignity. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel offered comedy outside the cemetery gates, and Still Mine gives us stoic fidelity, if little drama. Craig and Irene’s approach to dotage may not be viable down south in our overregulated states, but isn’t it nice to think they could live ever happily after?