26 August 2014

Still Life: A movie of hope

Eddie Marsan plays a tough guy, but soft on the inside, on the TV series Ray Donovan. He showed me a very different side of his acting ability in the movie my wife and I saw on Sunday night, Still Life. I chose this photo to represent the flick as Eddie's character, Mr John May, is ever looking up, not to God as one might expect in a religious blog, but up to life. He seems to be querying it regularly.

He does most things regularly. He eats the same meal on return from his consistent work at an office in a local Council in South London. He is a quiet man, unassuming and yearns to bring honor and dignity to others, even when no one else will do that.  And he doesn't seem worried to gain anything by this action either. For over two decades he has worked basically alone in a small office, and keeps meticulous records with almost-OCD fidelity. But something else is driving him to do this work, and the word for it is OPTIMISM.

He is looking up. His job is to bring to final rest people who seem to have no living relatives. But he wants to find family members of deceased people and bring them to a bit of conclusion. John works with the local police as a detective for the coroner, trying to bring closure, coordinating funerals, burials, disposal of ashes, and wants to bring dignity and a bit of life in the face of death.

No one really seems to care; no one seems to notice him. I kept considering allusions to Alan Arkin in his 1968 role of John Singer in "The Heart is a lonely Hunter." He was brilliant (Academy Award nomination) as the deaf-mute who helped all kinds of people who always seemed to be troubled and troubling. Arkin's Singer back then reminded me of Richard Cory, from the poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson. Maybe it was only their endings, but Cory's dignity (forget that he was wealthy) along with Singer and here John May all spoke of a quiet fortitude and observable honor they brought to their worlds.

Cory: "And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked."


And maybe it's that 'humanness' which is ever hoping for something better than an uncaring industrial dumping of cremated ashes. John May kept a scrapbook of the abandoned lonely souls for whom relatives had no time. They were his own family. And some cases remained open long after the funerals, so that his optimism could honestly be fruitfully concluded.

Hope brings great energy. And John May keeps his energy inside his dignified frame, and only towards the end does he begin to explore it, tasting new tastes, considering his own possibilities of life. Hope does that. It lets us look up. It lets us consider things beyond ourselves and our current experiences. Hope allows us to launch out, because we have an anchor that keeps us safely assured while we launch.

The Bible says, "hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5.5) And it's that optimism, that hope, which John May characterizes. Uberto Pasolini has created a beauty of a film in his native England. 

Let me ask you-- where do you find hope? What gives you something for which you get up each morning? The humanness of John May and that which he wanted to give his clients is noble beyond the new administrator in the local council. But I don't think it's beyond the desire of the Lord of life. In fact, I think the optimism of John May is right for us all. For you and for me. I was challenged; maybe you will be challenged also. 

Then reach out, look up, for hope is available for us all, in the person of Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel and Light of the World. He brings dignity to each of us. He longs to be in relationship with each of us. 

Of everyone ever, 'he was always human when he talked.' Listen to what He says of you, of Himself, of our need for Him. And you will find life. It's better that you find it now than at the end of your own movie.

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