In the heartfelt and pithy Canadian film Still Mine, James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold portray a couple in their eighties who are struggling with issues both physical and bureaucratic.
While he is building a smaller house for them on their vast New Brunswick acreage and being besieged with local governmental red tape, she is slowly slipping into mental incapacity. It’s as if his obsession with finishing the house is a planned strategy to hold his grief at bay.
Craig and Irene have lived comfortably off the land for most of their marriage and many locals have reaped the rewards of the couple’s dairy cows and plump strawberries. Of late, though, town officials are getting in their way. An economy that’s been painless to navigate is becoming unyieldingly complicated by an increasing regiment of codes and regulations. For example, a grocer who has bought Craig's strawberries for years suddenly can’t due to the fact that his pick-up truck isn’t properly refrigerated.
While Craig curses this new world of building permits and lumber regulations, Irene reveals with decreasing subtlety that she may be suffering from the first inkling of Alzheimer’s disease. (Like last year’s devastating Amour, an early sign something is amiss occurs in the kitchen.) Bujold doesn’t overplay her decline; in fact, signs of it sneak out through writer Michael McGowan’s terse yet dense script until a fall down some stairs necessitates that her husband and their two grown children address it head on.
Directed by McGowan as well, the film gives Cromwell a wide palette with which to masterfully paint his multi-dimensional character. In alternating scenes, he can be curmudgeonly, cantankerous, sweet, or generous, all of which are rooted in the reality of Craig’s situation. What makes the film hover far above the maudlin is the actors’ fiery dedication to a couple that seem as real as those who live over any number of back fences anywhere in North America.
Still Mine| Dir. Michael McGowan | 102 minutes | Showing at Rio Theatre