Still Life


Universal acclaim - based on 10 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 10
  2. Negative: 0 out of 10

Critic Reviews

  1. 100
    Few of China's Sixth Generation filmmakers have turned to their country's explosive economic growth and its attendant upheavals with so sharp an eye and so heavy a heart as Jia Zhang-ke.
  2. More than a million people have been displaced in central China in the cause of generating electrical power to meet the needs of the future; Jia's flowing river of a picture washes over a few of them as they adjust to life's currents in the present.
  3. The first great film of the year. It’s beautiful but so much more—full of subtle feeling, framed by a monstrous, eroding landscape.
  4. Perhaps Jia is trying to prove the point that the future has already arrived. Or perhaps he is suggesting that the truth is stranger than science fiction. This is today's China: Anything is possible.
  5. 80
    As usual, Jia's people tend toward the opaque--one of the movie's most enthusiastic conversations is conducted with ringtones. But his compositions have their own eloquence. Everything's despoiled and yet--as rendered in cinematographer Yu Lik-wai's rich, impossibly crisp HD images--everything is beautiful.
  6. A modern master of postmodern discontent, Jia Zhang-ke is among the most strikingly gifted filmmakers working today whom you have probably never heard of.
  7. This 2006 drama may seem to be worlds apart from the surreal theme-park setting of Jia's previous film, "The World," but there are similarities of theme, style, scale, and tone: social and romantic alienation in a monumental setting, a daring poetic mix of realism and lyrical fantasy, and an uncanny sense of where our planet is drifting.
  8. There is no turning back; the biggest project in China since the Great Wall and the Grand Canal has claimed its human cost and now must prove its own worth. -
  9. 70
    Despite all this desolation and depression, however, Still Life is an extremely beautiful movie.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 13 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 3
  2. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Feb 27, 2015
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. I actually really enjoyed this movie (that is, if you can enjoy a movie about loneliness and death). Eddie Marsan, as Mr. May, does a wonderful job of portraying what living in the world as an unconnected being is all about. Ironically, his job is to find connections for others like himself, who have passed on with no known family or friends. He diligently tries to provide for them what he lacks in his own life- at least one person who cares. His boss berates him for spending too much time and money trying to find relatives or friends who would come to a funeral and says the person is dead, so doesn't care. But Mr. May seeks to honor their lives as best he can- he keeps all their pictures in a photo album which he looks at frequently- as long as he remembers them, they haven't lived a wasted life. He even tries to give them a funeral in whatever religious tradition they followed, if he can find evidence of one. Of course, the final irony is that he is responsible for bringing a family together on the last case he had before his job was terminated, and as the funeral is going on and all the people he found are gathered there, he is being buried in the same cemetery, alone, with no mourners (he gets hit by a London double-decker bus). The only reason I gave this less than a 10 was for the final scene- where all the dead people he had served in his job are seen as spirits coming to surround his grave to pay their respects and as a thank you to him- it was just a bit campy and intended to tug at heartstrings, in which it succeeded, but a little too much on the 'and he died happily ever after' side. Otherwise, I enjoyed Mr. May's sensitive, gentle soul and wished more people in today's world were as caring- a good moral lesson there. Full Review »
  2. Aug 27, 2010
    Uncertainty is at the stem of Jia Zhangke's "Still Life" and it molds itself into many forms - uncertainty as to what China's economic boomUncertainty is at the stem of Jia Zhangke's "Still Life" and it molds itself into many forms - uncertainty as to what China's economic boom holds for its future, displaced people uncertain whether they will ever see those they have lost again, and uncertainty over whether love that is broken can ever be mended. All of this takes place in the backdrop of Fengjie village, which was at the time being upheaved for the construction of Three Gorges Dam (now complete, and the largest electricity-generating plant in the world). Zhangke's use of a real setting provides for some powerful shots that have formed him into one of China's foremost artistic commentators, but this also diminishes the entertainment value (which, in my opinion, shouldn't have to be compromised in this type of filmmaking). Full Review »
  3. RobertH.
    Nov 29, 2008
    The film has it's moments but when compared to the director's previous efforts the filmmaking here strikes me as far too lazy,The film has it's moments but when compared to the director's previous efforts the filmmaking here strikes me as far too lazy, relying too much on the backdrop and nonactors at the cost of lackadaisical narrative. if you don't edit your view of life enough to focus our attention where's the art? Full Review »