Still Life (2013 film)

Still Life is a 2013 drama film written and directed by Uberto Pasolini.[1][2] The film was presented at the 70th Venice Film Festival , where it won the award for Best Director in the category "Orizzonti".[3] At the Reykjavik International Film Festival, Still Life received the top award (Golden Puffin) as well as the FIPRESCI Award.[4] It also received the Black Pearl award (the highest award) at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival for "its humanity, empathy, and grace in treating grief, solitude, and death"; and for his performance, Eddie Marsan won the Best British Actor award at the 2014 Edinburgh International Film Festival.[5]

Still Life
Still Life (2013 film).jpg
Directed byUberto Pasolini
Written byUberto Pasolini
Produced by
StarringEddie Marsan
CinematographyStefano Falivene
Edited by
  • Tracy Granger
  • Gavin Buckley
Music byRachel Portman
  • Redwave Films
  • Embargo Films
Release date
  • September 3, 2013 (2013-09-03) (Venice)
Running time
92 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • Italy


John May is a man struggling with loneliness who works the Bona Vacantia office in the Kennington Town Hall in London, where his main responsibility is locating the next of kin of people found dead in the district with no will and testament. Most cases are open-and-shut due to lack of leads, but when heirs are located, he regularly finds them hesitant to accept the deceased's personal property, and so has taken the practice of offering to organize the funeral himself, paid for by district government, writing a eulogy for each deceased, as an incentive. His boss finds this practice time-consuming and expensive, and so has decided to close his office down once he completes one final case: the death of William "Billy" Stoke. When Mr. May, as he is called throughout the story, asks the man's address, he finds out that the deceased was a neighbor he never knew, who lived directly across the apartment building from him, in direct view of his window.

Inspecting Stoke's apartment, his sole lead are a series of photographs—one of them of a pork pie factory. Most of the photographs are of an adult woman and a young girl. The many photos of the young girl stop abruptly: there are empty pages in the album, and no photos of a girl much older than ten. John May and others surmise that they were once a wife and daughter, but there are no records or leads, no names, dates or labels, no identification of any kind.

He visits the pie bakery and obtains from one of the workers, who remembers Stoke, the address of one of Stoke's former lovers. He visits the woman and asks her if he had ever spoken of a wife or daughter. She says that he had never spoken of a family, and that he had left her for a lady who owned a fish and chips restaurant that Stoke frequented. John travels to where Stoke was living at the time and checks all the fish and chips in town until he locates Stoke's former lover, Mary, her adult daughter, and granddaughter. Mary discloses that Stokes is the father of her daughter, but that he left before he knew of her existence.

Mary tells John that they cannot be considered Stoke's kin as "he never wanted a family." She does, however, tell him he abandoned them and landed in prison.

At the prison, a guard leads John to some letters Stoke never mailed, where he finds a letter from the young girl in the photo album, making it apparent that she is a daughter who was once part of Stokes' life and family. It contains the name "Kelly" and an address. Another involved search is fruitful: May finds Kelly Stoke, Stoke's other daughter, the daughter he knew. Kelly is taken aback to hear her father is dead, but shows hard feelings from her father's wild ways, and his abandonment of her and her mother when she was young. When May asks about her mother, seeking any leads to anyone connected with Stokes, Kelly discloses that her mother, the adult woman in the photo album and Stoke's former wife, had died three years ago.

When May invites Kelly to the funeral, she displays hurt and resentment that are strong enough for her to decline. She gives him a photo of her father with Jumbo, taken when they were serving in the military in the Falklands. Jumbo remembers Stoke fondly, but shows no interest in the funeral. Jumbo refers John to several parks and shelters where he had seen Stoke last. John meets two homeless men there who agree to talk to him in exchange for a drink. However, they, too, show no interest in the funeral. Considering this the end of the line, John returns to his office to ready it for decommissioning. He receives a phone call there from Kelly who has accepted to be Stoke's next of kin.

The later part of the film shows quiet scenes that depict John making small changes in his rigid routine: trying new foods and drinks, walking new routes, and being inspired by a story of Billy Stoke's bravado.

John meets with Kelly to inform her of what she has inherited, and Kelly invites John to tea, which makes John smile for the first time in the film, under the promise that his loneliness will end. After shopping for some small gifts, he is hit by a New Routemaster and bleeds to death on the asphalt.

However, there is no one to locate his next of kin, since the office has closed down. He is buried very close to Stoke's grave, at the same time Stoke's funeral is in progress.

Stoke's funeral is attended by all the people John contacted throughout the film on his behalf. Kelly occasionally looks around for John, who was expected at the funeral he had planned, and whom she was to meet for tea after the funeral. As Stoke's military mates in their dress berets, the homeless men, his former wife and girlfriends, and both of his daughters, leave his grave site, Kelly looks over and sees attendants putting the last dirt on a new grave, not knowing that it is John.

After Mays' funeral party departs, people begin to appear in the cemetery and walk to John's burial site. A large crowd gathers, and they are shown to be the people whose cases John worked while he was still alive.



  1. ^ Simona Santoni (12 December 2013). "Still Life di Uberto Pasolini, al cinema una piccola perla sulla solitudine". Panorama. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  2. ^ David Rooney (9 September 2013). "Still Life: Venice Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  3. ^ Matteo Bartocci (7 September 2013). "Pasolini miglior regia a Orizzonti per "Still life"". Il manifesto. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  4. ^ "RIFF 2013 Awards: Still Life wins Golden Puffin". Reykjavik International Film Festival. 5 October 2013. Archived from the original on 15 February 2014.
  5. ^ Jugu Abraham. "Movies that make you think". Retrieved 17 October 2014.

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