Uberto Pasolini’s Still Life Questions the Purpose of Life
Black Pearl Award /New Horizons- From the get-go, Still Life looks like an ordinary monologue of a council worker’s life. Day in and day out, John May (portrayed sublimely by Eddie Marsan) arranges funerals for people who die alone. In a world where more and more people have become alienated from their families for whatever reason, it is not uncommon that a lot of them have family and friends who choose not to attend their funeral. May stands in at these funerals and also writes obituaries for them by collecting whatever he can from the home of the deceased.
As quixotic as it seems, May finds a strange sense of fulfillment and purpose in his job. He believes that no one should die alone, although his life is quite the opposite. He lives alone and leads quite a methodical life, resistant to change and surprise. It is when the council decides to make his position redundant that May sets out on one last mission: to find any remaining family or friends related to his last “case.” In this case it is Billy Stoke, a drunkard who died alone in the house across from May’s flat. From the looks of it, Stoke died of a possible alcohol overdose and was found days later by neighbours who complained of a foul smell arising from the flat. May is determined to arrange a funeral for Stoke, and because it is his last one, he wants to make it memorable. May thus sets out to find Stoke’s daughter, whose pictures he found in a photo album retrieved from Stoke’s residence.
With nothing but the photo in hand, Stoke commences a liberating journey in search of Kelly (Joanne Froggatt), Stoke’s only surviving family member. May, who leads a regimented and repetitive life, is seen breaking out of his monotony and coming out of his reclusive shell. He talks to friends, and in general people that knew Stoke and learns something new every day. Slowly, the idea of family and relationships seem more real to him. He starts to care about people, and, more importantly, about himself.
Still Lifeis a beautifully crafted human drama, a masterpiece by director Uberto Pasolini. The grey, often stark visuals of England’s towns juxtaposed with John May’s equally grey life is the genius of cinematographer Stefano Falivene. Rachel Portman’s music preserves the somber mood of the film and elevates moments of tragedy leading up to its final conclusion. Pasolini succeeds in delivering a compelling and hopeful story of life, love, loss and the afterlife.