STILL MINE written and directed by Michael McGowan, with James Cromwell, Geneviève Bujold, Rick Roberts and Julie Stewart. A Mongrel Media release. 103 minutes. Opens Friday (May 3). For venues and times, see Movies.
Geneviève Bujold is sitting in a hotel suite at the Toronto Film Festival to talk about Still Mine, which casts her as a woman in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
The Quebecois actor, whose screen credits range from King Of Hearts and Kamouraska to Coma and Dead Ringers, is engaged and inquisitive, and clearly delighted to be discussing a movie that centres on older people.
"They love each other; they still have a sexual life," she says of Irene and Craig Morrison, whom she and James Cromwell play in the film, which is based on a true story. "It's amazing to me. They're tough, hard-working, and this thing happens to her. And she's not, like, gone; she's on the threshold of Alzheimer's. It's a word that scares people almost as much as cancer."
Still Mine also offered Bujold the opportunity to give a small, specific performance, with none of the outsized emotional acting expected from major-studio Oscar bait.
"No, it wouldn't have worked," she says. "Stillness has its influence, all through the film. And I can't give enough praise to Michael McGowan, also - he really was the captain of that ship, and we were all happy to have him."
Even though Irene recedes from the film as the focus shifts to Craig's battles with their adult children and an unbending government inspector, Bujold feels the Morrisons' love story resonates through every scene.
"They still matter to each other," Bujold says. "And not just because they've been married for so long. So she becomes sick and he's suddenly vulnerable. He wants to be the guy. He wants to make her well, to build her a new house.
"The guys always want to fix the problem," she continues, laughing. "You can tell them something, they'll listen, but what they want to do is fix it - probably so they don't have to hear about it any more. But no, you can't fix this."
That emotional complexity was what drew her to the project, she says.
"Well, it's not like there are 50 scripts to choose from. But I know right away whether it's something I want to say yes to. That takes less and less time. This one I knew immediately I wanted to do."
The result is a performance in which Bujold digs deep into herself. Maybe a little too deep, actually.
"My sister came from Montreal to see it last night, and it freaked her out," Bujold says. "She's scared of [getting] Alzheimer's herself - she's not sick, she's just, like, not paying attention at times. But for her, it's just like, ‘This was so scary.' It's amazing how people are scared of illnesses and of dying."
Not that she thinks Still Mine is a frightening movie.
"You don't come out of our film miserable," she says. "It's not a downer. You're affected, you're touched and moved. There's light in it, also. There's something beautiful about it. That's why people can relate. We're all gonna go, and maybe we're gonna get sick [first]. How do we prepare? How do we cultivate in ourselves an acceptance and resilience? ‘Okay, that's what will become of me.' If we fight it, we're done."