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Still devoted. Still determined.
"Age is an abstraction, not a straitjacket."
Facts of the Case
Craig Morrison (James Cromwell, Babe) and his wife Irene (Genevieve Bujold, Dead Ringers) live on a small farm in New Brunswick. In recent days, Irene has been showing concerning signs of dementia. Craig thinks he can care for her himself and doesn't want to put her in some sort of nursing home, but feels the home they're currently living in is a little too large. As such, he decides to put his skills as a craftsman to work and build a small, one-story house on their property which will be better-suited to his wife's current needs. Unfortunately, building a house in the 21st century isn't as simple as simply grabbing a hammer and getting to work. There are forms which need to be filled out, permits which need to be issued and inspections which need to be conducted. After a while, Craig's efforts place him in conflict with local government officials, and soon government bureaucrats are threatening to bulldoze his work-in-progress. Will Craig find a way to convince these people to let him finish his mission?
Still Mine exists at a somewhat unusual cinematic juncture. Portions of the film are tough, tender, honest examinations of the challenges of growing old and living with someone suffering from dementia. Other portions of the film offer syrupy, sentimental, conventional material which opts for warm fuzziness over honesty. It's too good to be dismissed as a Lifetime Original Movie clone, but not good enough to reach the standard set by Away From Her and Amour. It wants to achieve the power of those films, but that's a near-impossible goal to achieve when you also want to keep the audience smiling.
If the film is worth seeing, it's for the performances delivered by Cromwell and Bujold. The former is just about perfect as Craig, capturing the man's noble stubbornness and never delivering a false note even when the film starts pushing a little too hard. The latter delivers a difficult, nuanced performance which appropriately doesn't follow a neat arc. Irene's dementia comes and goes, and the scenes in which she regains full control of her senses are both startling and heartbreaking. The two share a lovely chemistry together during the moments in which Irene is in control of her mental faculties, and Cromwell's quiet heartbreak during his wife's less lucid moments is immensely touching.
Alternately, the portion of the film revolving around the construction of the house feels increasingly forced and hokey. The government official (Jonathan Potts, Devil) tasked with stopping the construction is such a one-note stereotype, headlining one tired scene after another in which the official essentially says, "you can't do this because the law says so!" The character exists to give Craig sufficient reason to demonstrate righteous outrage (which generally appears in the form of speeches about how things were different back in the good old days). This side of the film also produces scenes involving Campbell Scott (The Spanish Prisoner) as Craig's attorney, a character who primarily exists to marvel at what an amazing guy Craig is.
The film was written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Michael McGowan, who also helmed the similarly well-intentioned, occasionally moving, occasionally clunky One Week (which starred Joshua Jackson as a young man who takes a road trip after being diagnosed with a terminal illness). It's clear that McGowan has talent—the best moments of Still Mine are tremendous—but his talent is subdued by his need to deliver crowd-pleasing entertainment.
Still Mine (Blu-ray) receives a strong 1080p/1.85:1 transfer which highlights the film's sprawling rural locations and warm cinematography. Detail is strong throughout, particularly facial detail—you can see every little line in the weathered faces of the two leads. Depth is excellent, and shading is strong during darker scenes. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is solid, too, offering the dialogue and music with clarity (the music is a bit forceful at times, but that's to be expected, I suppose). Sound design is actually quite nuanced and immersive on occasion. No supplements whatsoever are included.
The superb performances from Cromwell and Bujold are enough to make Still Mine an engaging and moving experience, but too much of the film is an oversimplified "things aren't the way they used to be" screed. Cautiously recommended.
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