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Still Mine

Posted by martinteller on August 13, 2013

Craig and Irene Morrison (James Cromwell, Geneviève Bujold) have been married 61 years.  With their seven children all grown and living on their own, and Irene struggling with Alzheimer’s, Craig feels that their house is too large to be manageable.  He starts constructing another house on his own New Brunswick property, a smaller one with a better view.  But he is stifled and flabbergasted by the fees and bureaucracy involved in simply doing something he’s done for years.  With Irene in gradual decline, he battles the system to build the home he needs.

The relationship between Craig and Irene is very lovely.  Although senior romances in movies aren’t quite the rarity they’re made out to be, they’re certainly not common enough, and it’s a pleasure to see one handled with such simple grace.  Cromwell and Bujold have simply adorable chemistry together, and their dialogue economically establishes a marriage that the viewer can easily believe has spanned many years.  Irene’s advancing deterioration is done with a minimum of schmaltz (although the film as a whole does have some schmaltzy bits) and Craig’s reactions to it are understandable and sympathetic.

Unfortunately, this leaves the rest of the film, an unsatisfying “David vs. Goliath” story.  Craig fights the evil, unyielding bureaucrats and all their silly rules about things like “safety” and “standards”.  Back in my day, we just built a damn house!  I know what the hell I’m doing… trust me, I’m a cool old dude!  It’s a very libertarian/right-wing viewpoint, where the big bad government needs to stay out of our business.  What makes it especially frustrating is that we never hear about a particular regulation that Craig considers unfair or unreasonable.  All we learn in the endlessly repetitive scenes of Craig butting heads with the governments is that there are a still a couple of regulations his house doesn’t live up to.  What are they, and why can’t he comply with them?  Jeez, give us a reason to be on his side in this fight!  He just comes off like a stubborn, irascible dick.  Maybe some of the rules are unreasonable, but without that detail it’s clear the filmmakers assumed that we would all automatically agree that Craig is getting a raw deal.  Early on, the film hints at its agenda in a scene where Craig is unable to sell his strawberries because he doesn’t transport them in a refrigerated truck.

It’s nice to be full of folksy wisdom and DIY spirit and a sense of good old-fashioned tradition.  But laws exist for a reason, and if you’re going to call certain ones out as unreasonable, then you need to supply some specifics and not just make blanket caricatures about the cold, uncaring bureaucracy.  It’s a shame that such a sweet study of enduring love (and such fine performances) is enmeshed with such messy and off-putting soapboxing.  At least the countryside is pretty.  Rating: Poor (58)

IMDb
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