John May (played by Eddie Marsan) has a job that not many would enjoy – but he does, and he’s good at it. His work involves his attendance at the home of anyone in his council area who has recently died, without any apparent loved ones. He investigates their circumstances in an attempt to find anybody who may wish to pay their respects and possibly attend their send-off. Should nobody be found after John’s exhaustive search, he gives the deceased the dignity of a burial ceremony appropriate to their culture and beliefs – and attends the ceremony himself, just to make sure the person doesn’t leave this life totally unnoticed. He has done this meticulous work in his own unassuming, methodical way for over twenty years. One day, during an investigation, he tracks down a relative of one of his cases – Kelly Stoke (by Joanne Frogatt). Although she is distant from his “client”, John persuades her to get involved. They develop a friendship and John finds himself pleasantly inspired by this new element in his usually solitary life. As he prepares to give Kelly’s relative an appropriate send-off, other parts of his life start to fall apart. Surely John can keep up this useful work – as he hopes – even though things may conspire against him?
This movie is one that plays out so gently that it hits you deep in the soul without you really noticing. John May is a wonderful character and Eddie Marsan is perfect in his portrayal. There is often little use for dialogue as John goes about his daily rituals and works tirelessly to give the deceased the dignity he feels they deserve. He really is such a lovely man. That he finds friendship amongst all the seeming futility in his life is truly heart-warming. Joanne Frogatt is a natural and here she is lovely – she makes Kelly so real and the audience can easily empathise with her. Several other colourful characters in this are wonderful and John May’s interaction with each is respectful and truly lovely. The movie is poignant, but it makes some very pointed statements about life, relationships and well … yes … death. It may sound maudlin, but it’s actually quite uplifting – viewers will no doubt feel quite positive as this liberating story plays out. No wonder both Eddie Marsan and Uberto Pasolini have been so globally awarded by Film Festivals and other Cinema Associations in the 2013 season. Well done indeed.
Made in 2013. Directed by Uberto Pasolini