MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, February 7th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Coming next: romance.
During this time of year, streaming services, cable channels, and cineplexes are overrun with tales of it. Picture dramatic runs through the airport. Dramatic confessions in the rain. Dramatic meetups at the top of the Empire State building.
What these stories have in common is they all focus on new love and grand, one-time gestures. What we don’t see nearly so often are stories about long years of faithful care and every day affection. A wonderful 2012 Canadian film that’s available on iTunes and Amazon Prime is a great antidote to a culture that’s only interested in new Valentines.
CLIP: Why is our bed in the living room? Because you fell down the stairs last week. Did I hurt myself? No. Nothing serious. It’s funny I can’t remember it all. Well, you bumped your head. That probably has something to do with it. Still, I should remember, shouldn’t I? I wouldn’t worry about it. But I am worried. So you can’t remember a couple of things. So what. We’re still here. We have each other. And isn’t everything else a bonus? I hope so. You know what scares me? What if I forget everything? You’ll still be my Irene.
Still Mine is a touching true story about how one man takes on maddening government bureaucracy to stay true to his vow to love his wife in sickness till death parts them. During an early scene, 87-year-old farmer Craig Morrison, played by Babe’s James Cromwell, learns that he won’t be able to sell his strawberry crop for the year.
CLIP: Didn’t you get my letter? Not that I recall, no. I sent it back in February on account of new regulations. We can only buy from growers that ship their produce in refrigerated trucks. These were on the plants not two hours ago. There’s no heat of the day in them at all. Well, it’s a head office decision.
The strawberries represent the minor inconveniences wrought by regulations. Craig spends the rest of the film learning how very personal impersonal government can become.
He returns from his meeting with the grocer to discover that Irene, his Alzheimer’s-afflicted wife of 60-plus years, has fallen down the stairs. He doesn’t want to put her in a nursing home. His father taught him all the skills of expert carpentry, and he owns a lovely piece of land. He has all he needs, he figures, to build a single-level home better equipped to meet her needs.
What he doesn’t figure on is a building inspector who flags his lumber not being stamped by a certified inspector, even though it far exceeds the quality of most certified wood. He doesn’t expect his trusses to be rejected for not being engineer-approved, though they are more sound than typical professional work. At first Craig attempts to meet reasonable requirements like drawing up blueprints and having his work approved by a builder. But these soon grow into unreasonable vindictiveness on the government’s part.
Complying with a work stoppage order means Craig won’t have his new home ready for the worst of his Irene’s illness. Ignoring it means a jail sentence.
CLIP: And in fact Mr. Morrison’s done exactly the opposite of what the commission is suggesting. He’s tried to address every, single one of their concerns. Is that all, Mr. Fulton? Yeah. I think so. Except sorry, you know it’s worth remembering that the National Building Code is not a set of rules but a set of standards. And it’s our belief that Mr. Morrison has not only met those standards, in most cases he’s exceeded them.
We’ve all read stories of bureaucratic overreach and shaken our heads. But the image of a husband fighting the powers of the state to care for his wife shakes our hearts.
The Morrisons’ relationship is real and complicated. Craig’s swearing and a brief love scene between the couple featuring near-nudity account for the PG-13 rating. No question, Still Mine would be easier to recommend without the language. But as for the love scene…consider how rare it is to see marital affection depicted between spouses who aren’t gym hardened and in the prime of youth. Their modest encounter is handled tastefully and clearly isn’t intended to inspire sinful desires. It’s the rarest of rare moments in a mainstream movie that doesn’t treat the marriage bed after many years as a joke or a bore. Rather it’s shown as something that becomes sweeter and more meaningful with time.
CLIP: It never gets old, does it? No, it doesn’t. We always did the passion part well. Remember that hotel in St. John when we were first married? Remember the drive to St. John before the hotel? You always seemed so prim and proper. I was! Until I met you. Who would have guessed it?
Craig Morrisons’ mighty, real-life labor of love illustrates better than a policy speech ever could what we lose when we promote a safety net mandated by government over the freely given support of spouses, families, and churches.
But even better, it offers a beautiful depiction of a husband and wife who model Proverbs 5:15, finding refreshment in their own cisterns even when life is drawing to an end.
MUSIC: [Mumford and Sons “After the Storm”]