Genevieve Bujold as Irene and James Cromwell as Craig in...

Genevieve Bujold as Irene and James Cromwell as Craig in "Still Mine." Credit: Samuel Goldwyn Films

The title makes it sound like the "Finding Nemo" sequel, but "Still Mine" is James Cromwell's movie, and that's a welcome thing. Based on a real-life case in Canada, what would otherwise have been be a rather banal David-Goliath story -- New Brunswick lumberman butts heads with local bureaucracy -- is elevated by Cromwell into something more weighty, and even existentially profound.

With his wife (a delicately lovely Genevieve Bujold) succumbing to dementia, and increasingly fragile, the 80-odd-year-old woodsman Craig Morrison decides to use a few of his 2,000 wooded acres to build them a more manageable home, one without stairs or obstructions. He doesn't bother to get permits; he mills his own wood. All of which irritates the local bureaucracy, as does Morrison's prickly personality.

Via Cromwell's performance, Morrison's crusade against supposedly vindictive authority becomes as much a gesture of defiance against age and mortality as it is against mindless officialdom -- which helps, because the foundation of his argument, and writer-director Michael McGowan's movie's, is a lot less sound than the house he's building. Granted, building standards aren't really created for guys like Morrison, who build above code. They're to keep idiots from making houses out of cardboard, and heating them with trash fires.

But the fact is, a character who puts himself above the law out of sheer stubbornness isn't very attractive. By making Morrison's mule-headedness into a form of cosmic protest, however, Cromwell makes McGowan's often lovely looking, evenly paced drama into something that expands beyond its frame.

PLOT His wife's memory disappearing, independent old farmer builds her a house, and runs up against intractable Canadian bureaucracy.

RATING PG-13 (some thematic elements and brief sensuality/partial nudity)

CAST James Cromwell, Genevieve Bujold, Campbell Scott


BOTTOM LINE Cromwell gives a terrific, authoritative performance; Bujold is like porcelain.

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