Yesterday, Sept. 29, The Milwaukee Film Festival screened “Still Life” for a large audience at The Oriental Theater. “Still Life” is a part of Milwaukee Film Festival’s Competition program, which is a selection of eight international films that a jury judges in a competition for the $10,000 Herzfeld Competition Award.
“Still Life” is about John May, a man holding the unique occupation of tracking down friends and family of the forgotten departed. Much of what drives him to find these people is the funeral. When, each time, he is left without an interested family member to attend, John writes the eulogy, selects the music, and attends the service himself. Much to John’s surprise and dismay, his department, as well as his job, is eliminated and he must say goodbye to the life he’s known for 20+ years…after his last case.
This film is worth seeing for the character of John May and his development alone. Eddie Marsan’s genius portrayal of the straight-laced, borderline OCD protagonist allows the audience to get to know the character through the most minute details. Marsan’s use of silent action in the film is particularly impressive as he tells the audience about his character and draws laughter without saying a word.
The audience also gets to know John May’s personality largely due to the use of colors in “Still Life.” In a monotonous, grey granite world, John May stands out in his own subtle way and he soon begins to let new experiences break through his regularly programmed life. Color and foreshadowing via cinematography combined with Marsan’s talented portrayal are the reasons why the audience can grow so attached to someone that says so little.
Those looking for a high-speed, riotous comedy should look elsewhere, though, for “Still Life” creates its comedy through long, drawn out pauses and slow, silent action. This may pace the film in a way that not everyone wants to sit through, but the empty, soundless spaces are what make this film so uniquely funny and endearing.
These unique method for creating such a lovable protagonist, along with an outstanding, drop-jaw ending, make “Still Life” a film you don’t want to miss. Dark comedy meets drama in a way that leaves the audience feeling neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but some heartwarming something in between.
“Still Life” has its second and final screening on Oct. 3 at the Fox Bay Cinema Grill at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online or at the Milwaukee Film Box Office.