Still Life

DRAMA; 1hr 32min

STARRING: Eddie Marsan, Joanne Froggatt

Grave business: Marsan

Everything about drably suited London council worker John May (Marsan) is redolent of loneliness. His solitude, his tidiness and the thoroughness with which he handles what to most people would be a soul-destroying job all reek of a life more ordinary.


John’s job — which he loves — is to track down the families and/or friends of those who have died alone in his borough, and failing that (which he habitually seems to do), to orchestrate and attend their funerals alone. He tackles all this with the self-same sad exactitude with which he eats canned tuna on toast for dinner in his pin-neat flat, and to him, it is everything.


Summarily handed his marching orders after 22 years, John has one case to close. The late Billy Stoke apparently didn’t have much of an existence. But for John, his death and the daughter he left behind (Downton Abbey 's Froggatt) could mean a new lease on life. There are no showy explosions in writer-director Uberto Pasolini’s exceptional portrait. Just Marsan, as hypnotic as a quietly ticking grandfather clock, walking us with calibrated care through the grey days of a nondescript yet remarkable man.