Still Mine is a 2012 Canadian romantic drama based on real events. The film is directed by Michael McGowan and stars veterans James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold, who give magnificent performances.
In 2010 the Canadian media got a hold of the story of Craig Morrison, a nonagenarian who has been defending himself in court for years against attacks from the local government, which had him trapped in a tangle of bureaucracy and urban over-regulation, on account of a small house he was building with his own hands.
Two years later, in 2012, this moving while irritating story is brought to the big screen, with great reviews from critics and the public, since it is very easy to identify with the legal torment that Mr. Morrison has to go through. Like the protagonist of Still Mine, many people have been powerless in the face of a ruthless state machinery when it comes to dealing with absurd regulations and the bureaucratic maze they entail.
After 70 years of work in construction, Mr. Morrison, now 88 years old, has turned to the cultivation of strawberries and other agricultural products in his small farm. He leads an austere and quiet life, making ends meet by selling his crops at local markets.
With the enforcement of several new food regulations, he can no longer sell his fresh produce, even though it is of high quality and is highly valued by his customers. Given the small scale of his production, he simply cannot afford to adapt to the new requirements imposed by these regulations.
Although this setback is a serious hardship for him, he decides to resign himself to the new reality and deciding to continue to live off his small savings and by growing his own food. However, his real problems begin when his elderly wife is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He realizes that their small two-story house is no longer a safe place for her, and so decides to build a small, one-story wooden house on his lot, much more suitable for his wife’s new condition.
At 88 years of age, with all his construction experience, with the added wisdom about wood inherited from his late father -a ship builder-, and with all the love in the world for his wife, he begins to build with his own hands what will be their home for their last years of life together.
It is at this time that he receives the first visit from the town planning official, who asks him for all sorts of technical documentation, to fill out endless forms and, of course, the corresponding payment of fees to the town hall.
It is clear to him that this is merely an excuse for the city council to get more money from the taxpayers and to justify the salary of an unnecessary public employee, and although he does not have great economic means, he decides to pay up in order not to get into more trouble.
But his problems, far from ending, have only just begun. He is subjected to multiple inspections, and even though his house far exceeds all quality and safety standards, he is always missing some paperwork, some official certification, or some special permit hidden among the endless small print of regulations.
As the real Mr. Morrison said, “I thought this was a free country, that we had freedoms and rights as before, but I was sadly mistaken. All I wanted to do was build a house, and I was treated like some kind of dangerous outlaw.”
He had to face up to six trials under the threat of demolition and jail, but he never gave up and continued to build his house in his own way. The deterioration of his wife’s health was accelerated by all this anguish, but it was clear to him that after each trial he would either sleep in his new home with his wife or sleep in jail, but would never give in to government aggression.
Still Mine and the Principles of Freedom
Still Mine shows Mr. Morrison’s heroic behavior. When everything around him was pushing him to institutionalize his wife in a nursing home and to give up, at the age of 90 he remained firm, independent and free. He did what he knew was right even if it wasn’t legal, being loyal to his wife and his principles.
The government, justifying itself through the typical recourse of “this is for your own good,” was unmasked as cruel, soulless, and lacking in compassion. Craig Morrison eventually won as David did against Goliath; and not only did he triumph in court, but he emerged as a true moral victor, demonstrating that there are still people willing to defend their lives, freedom and property.
Unfortunately, shortly after the release of Still Mine, Mr. Morrison died in February 2013 at the age of 93. In August of that same year, his wife Irene died at the age of 87. But both died as free people, owners of their lives and of the house that the government failed to tear down.