Nobody can wear a sleeveless grey jumper like Eddie Marsan – the garment might have been invented for him. As the overlooked little-man, earnest and honest but with no self-esteem, he is without peer at the moment.
If you remember him opposite Helena Bonham Carter in the lovely Sixty Six (2006), you’ll appreciate how his ability to portray stubborn but submerged dignity is perfectly applied to role of John May, who for twenty two years has been tracing the next of kin of those who have died friendless and alone.
His days numbered as a council employee; John is left with one last case to solve – who was Billy Stoke?
Where are his family and lifetime associates?
A loner himself, John learns that Billy was a bit of a lad, neither good nor particularly bad, and not in the least bit mourned by those who recall him. Belatedly the scales are lifted from John’s eyes – he begins to open up as Billy’s history helps him understand his own peculiar isolation.
But there is only so far Marsan can go with deadpan passivity and what might become a film that is sucked into torpor is illuminated and warmed by the candlelight of Joanne Froggat’s appearance as Kelly, the daughter Billy abandoned when she was just a little girl.
Like John, she is a solitary, ‘invisible’ person. Uberto Pasolini has made one of those quiet, unobtrusive movies that manage to be about everything that most star-studded mega-blockbusters rarely get to within coo-ee of – which is to say Pasolini has meditated on what it is to be human.
The last scene is quite overwhelming – in a restrained, non-showy way, of course.
I should have seen it coming, but Pasolini has built his story on what is withheld. He leaves its theme to be eked out by May as he meticulously delves into his subject’s otherwise unregarded but unique background.
We need to be seen, to be known, and John May’s diligence ultimately earns for him the saddest triumph.
~ John Campbell