Last year, the heart-wrenching film “Amour” dealt with an elderly French couple who had to painfully reckon with the wife’s deteriorating mental and physical health. The couple becomes increasingly isolated as their sad fate descends upon them. It’s kind of a downer.
The movie “Still Mine” takes this exact same subject matter only this time it is set in rural New Brunswick, Canada, and is a lot less bleak. What is interesting is when you hold these two movies up next to each other you can see the Old World vs. New World approach to growing old and fading away.
There is a tragic beauty to “Amour” as its central couple essentially holds hands and waits for the end. “Still Mine,” on the other hand, gives us a couple that is not going down without a fight.
In this film based on a true story, James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold play Craig and Irene Morrison, an octogenarian couple enjoying semi-retirement on their family farm.
As dementia begins to take hold of Irene, Craig decides to build a smaller house on a plot of his land in order to make their lives more manageable and to avoid having to move to a nursing home. Craig is of a proud, do-it-yourself tradition and as he sets to work on the house he finds his old-school construction techniques run afoul of various building code ordinances (curse you, Canadian bureaucracy). Craig goes to battle against the state while the house becomes the only thing he can control as Irene gets increasingly worse.
“Still Mine” was written and directed by Michael McGowan, who in spite of his best efforts delivers a film that has the look and feel of a Lifetime movie of the week.
But even though its melodramatic dalliances and failure to deliver the same emotional stomach-punch as “Amour,” this movie is redeemed by the terrific work of Cromwell and, to a slightly lesser extent, Bujold.
Cromwell is an interesting dude. He spent his first two decades in Hollywood primarily as a television actor who landed the occasional bit part in a movie. It wasn’t until his breakout performance (playing second fiddle to a talking pig) as Farmer Hoggett in “Babe” at the prime Q-rating age of 55 that his career began to take off.
He’s as dependable as they come, and in “Still Mine,” he delivers a performance that is as gruff as it is tender and compelling from beginning to end. This movie does not work without Cromwell; plain and simple.
Even though “Still Mine” is not nearly as good a movie as “Amour,” I have to say that Craig and Irene are much better role models for growing old with dignity as they face the unfaceable together.
“Still Mine” is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief sensuality/partial nudity.