Monday, 25 June 2012

EIFF 6: Watching for sharks

The Edinburgh Film Festival is usually drenched in rain, although this year there have only been a couple of proper showers. But the movies have been packed with seaside stories, perhaps because in these austere times the ocean is a rather spectacular, and cheap, visual effect! Or maybe it reflects the spectre of global warming, which has also been mentioned on-screen in festival films this year, often in a joking way. Anyway, two of the films below are set on islands (the photo above is from the Chilean drama The Lifeguard, which I'm seeing later in the week).

Day of the Flowers
dir John Roberts; with Eva Birthistle, Carlos Acosta 12/UK ***
A solid cast and picturesque locations make this film thoroughly watchable even as the screenplay grows contrived. It follows two estranged sisters (Birthistle and Charity Wakefield) who travel from Glasgow to Cuba with a friend (the superb Bryan Dick) to deliver their father's ashes to the spot where their parents fell in love. But if course nothing goes to plan as they travel across country, having a variety of encounters along the way. Intriguingly, the two sisters' disparate personalities provide the film with a some clever twists. And even if the two Cuban men they encounter (Acosta and Christopher Simpson) simplistically encapsulate all of the culture's good and bad elements, they're very well played and the actors both have strong chemistry with Birthistle. In the end, the plot resolutely refuses to hold water, but there's enough resonance to keep us emotionally involved.

dir Jon Wright; with Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley 12/UK ****
A riotous collision of a British rural comedy and a freaky monster movie, this hilariously inventive Northern Irish film isn't perhaps what you expect to see at a festival, but it's a welcome respite from indie/foreign navel-gazing gloom. In a nutshell, alien squid-like beasts are terrorising a tiny Irish island community, where two cops (Coyle and Bradley) team up with a scientist (Russell Tovey) and a few lively locals to fend them off. The film gleefully plays with the genres, populating the film with riotously funny characters and situations that keep us both laughing and cringing from the screen. Indeed, some of this is startlingly scary, even though director Wright never stops poking fun at the situation. It's also cleverly played by actors who only rarely drift into goofy slapstick mode, against a seriously stunning landscape and tweaked with some inventive effects. But best of all is the way the film continues to develop the relationships right into the chaotic final act.

One 2 One
dir Mania Akbari; with Neda Amiri, Payam Dehkordi 11/Irn ***
This mannered experimental film from Iran explores the collapse of a relationship through a variety of isolated scenes, each shot in long takes that are centred closely on the faces of the people involved. These encounters take place in waiting areas, prison meeting rooms, on public transport, in a psychologist's office and at a fortune teller, and through conversations and voiceovers we begin to piece together the story of a love triangle in a society in which a woman's beauty is her most valuable asset, but men play all the cards. The harrowing events that drive the plot are all off-screen, but we relive them in the faces of the actors and the shifting layers of trust between the characters. It's pretty powerful stuff, even if the filmmaking style keeps us at arm's length, unable to emotionally identify with the characters. But it's an ambitious way to tell a story from a variety of perspectives, letting the nuances of modern-day Iranian culture come out in ways that are provocative and a bit chilling.

No comments: