WINNER: TOP 25 LIBERTARIAN FILMS
When a rural farmer builds a new home as a kindness to his ailing wife, a government bureaucrat threatens to tear it down for building code violations. Based on a true story. [Dir: Michael McGowan/ James Cromwell, Ronan Rees, Geneviève Bujold/ 102 min/ Drama/ Anti-regulation, Individualism]
The title Still Mine has a double-meaning. First, it refers to the film’s plot, a love story about a ninety-year-old man and his dementia-suffering wife. She requires constant care, and their ramshackle home is no longer safe for her. Will he abandon her to an institution as some suggest? No, speaks Love, because she is “still mine.” Instead, he decides to build–by hand–a small cottage, where he can accommodate her more easily.
And that’s where the second meaning of the Still Mine title comes into play. The State won’t let him build on his land in his own old-fashioned way. He must do things according to modern (and expensive) standardized processes for the convenience of the regulators. An independent character, and one of limited means, he defies the State and begins building as he sees fit, using the wood-crafting skills his father taught him. His land too is “still mine.”
The urgency of completing the cottage grows as his wife falls into rapid decline. Still living in their old home, she forgets to turn off the stove and accidentally starts a fire; she falls down the stairs, breaks her hip and is hospitalized. Will the regulators show mercy and somehow allow the old man to build a new home for her? No, the indifferent machinery of enforcement moves relentlessly forward and steps up the game. Now he is not only guilty of violating a building code but of willful, criminal defiance. Finally it comes down to a trial, in which he may not only lose his wife and property, but also his liberty.
A far-fetched chick-flick you say? It happens to be the well-documented true story of Craig Morrison, a Canadian who risked all against his local government for the sake of his wife of sixty years.
As the real Morrison was quoted in the press, “I thought this was a free country, that we had liberties and freedoms like we used to have, but I was sadly mistaken. All I wanted to do is build a house, and I was treated as if I was some kind of outlaw.”
Needless to say, it would be hard to imagine a more dead-on libertarian film. Morrison is just a straight-up good guy, strong and independent, loyal to the end, trying to do right by his ailing wife despite his own advanced age. He is a moral hero, besieged by the unfeeling State. Never did the good intentions of Progressives look quite so naive and cruel, and who knows how often building codes inhibit someone’s heartfelt effort? Such things seldom go reported.
This film is notable as well for telling the love story of an elderly couple; in this age of hard-bodied youthful Hollywood stars, you don’t see that very often. And the story works, frankly far better and with more honesty than many cinematic teenage romps, thanks the excellent casting of James Cromwell in the lead and Geneviève Bujold as his memory-impaired wife. There is something a bit “made-for-TV” about the film in terms of production values, but you forget all that in the context–the picture of two people facing the fading light of age with dignity, resolve, and a kind of poignant understated heroism. Tears were shed at the end, both on screen…and off.
External Reviews of Still Mine
“Still Mine is one of the best libertarian-themed movies I’ve ever seen…It’s a gripping tale of one fiercely independent man facing a soulless bureaucracy. It is more than a political story. It’s about families, about aging, about love, about responsibility…”
–Sharon Harris, Advocates for Self-Government Liberator Online
“Based on a true story, the film equates rugged individualism with a stand for personal dignity and control of one’s own destiny.”
–Chicago Sun Times
“In the slender plot, Craig proceeds to build his dream house by hand, unaware, until a hard-nosed government inspector (Jonathan Potts) comes calling, that he is flouting the local building code by not submitting plans and specifications for approval. After a stop work order is imposed, and numerous building code violations are cited, Craig eloquently argues his case. But there is no fighting the rigid, unsympathetic bureaucracy…”
–New York Times
“On one level, it’s a David-and-Goliath tale of conflict. On one side is a stubbornly old-fashioned man; on the other is the modern system, represented by an equally stubborn building inspector…Eventually, the legal and technical obstacles start seeming more personal than professional. At this point, Craig rises up in anger as the hero we’ve been waiting for him to become to fight the system…”