Academy Award nominees James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold as Craig and Irene Morrison in Still Mine. Photo by Ken Woroner

Still life in old bones

By 
  • May 4, 2013

After more than six decades of marriage, love looks like Craig Morrison caring for his ailing wife Irene in Michael McGowan’s Still Mine. But this isn’t your typical sob story about aging.

On the Bay of Fundy coast in St. Martins, New Brunswick, we find Academy Award nominees James Cromwell (Babe) as Craig and Geneviève Bujold (Anne of the Thousand Days) as Irene. Craig may be age 89, but we soon learn that he and Irene have always done the passion part of marriage well. And this kind of pillow talk sets the tone for the dry humour that permeates the film, even as Craig struggles to care for Irene as she starts showing signs of dementia.

He decides to build a house, like his father the shipwright taught him, on his own land using his own lumber. The new home is meant to be safer and easier to manage as Irene’s health deteriorates. But Craig runs into red tape, regulations and an overzealous government inspector. With 26 building code violations, he faces the threat of jail, the possibility that the house will be bulldozed and the prejudice that building a house yourself is reserved for adults far younger. Yet Craig never wavers from his mission.

Based on a true story, this tale is as much about independence in one’s golden years as it is about the kind of love and contentment two people are capable of experiencing after a lifetime together.

Cromwell is believable as the sometimes-crotchety, set in his ways, but always endearing Craig. His character’s actions undoubtedly shake the sedentary image of what it’s like to be over 80.

Bujold plays Irene as a woman who stays true to her personality, and trusts in her husband, between bouts of forgetfulness. She half-jokingly reminds him that if he ever cheats on her, she will not hesitate to leave him. When Irene does slip into confusion or anger as a result of her dementia, Bujold’s acting very rarely seems forced.

Still Mine was filmed in Northern Ontario and New Brunswick, feeling thoroughly Canadian from the landscape to the small-town neighbours that both annoy and care for you.

This is a quiet movie, but in its quietness it is filled with the nuances of life that make living both a hassle and a blessing.

Still Mine opens in Toronto and Vancouver on May 3.

 

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