Edinburgh Film Festival Round-Up
Edinburgh Film Festival Round-Up
Earlier this week I attended the opening three days of the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival. It was my first film festival, and I attended it while on vacation in the UK (a vacation I will return from later this week; devotees of Review to Be Named can expect the blog to be back on its regular schedule after Wednesday). I did not attend it as a member of the press (for anyone who is at all confused, I am not a member of the press, just your standard amateur mucking it up for the real critics), and therefore participated in fewer screenings than I might have otherwise. I saw seven films over my three days at the festival: three revivals (screenings of Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise, Sara Driver's You Are Not I, and Alexander Mackendrick's 1949 classic Whisky Galore!) and four UK Premiere's. Instead of writing four full reviews of the movies I saw, I thought it best to include short capsule reviews of all four, including grades as my standard regular length reviews do. You'll see more inter-review references than usual in these capsules, and a few asides about the festival experience, so think of these less as considered reviews and more as reports from the field. Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the four films I had the chance to experience at the Edinburgh International Film Festival:

The Guard:

Directed by John Michael McDonagh (brother of In Bruges director Martin McDonagh), The Guard is in several respects very similar to his brother's film. Also a pitch-black comedy starring a caustic Brendan Gleeson, The Guard is a self assured debut that knows exactly how clever it is and doesn't pull any punches as a result. Gleeson is stellar and hysterical as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a boozy, drug-friendly, hooker frequenting small town cop who reluctantly joins forces with a standard, strait-laced, "by the book" FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle, who very subtly portrays Everett's transformation from shock to annoyance to loyalty in regards to Boyle) to bring down a drug cartel who murderously await a shipment of $500 million worth of cocaine (though, as Boyle continuously insists, the feds tend to overestimate the "street value" of their busts). In many ways, The Guard is a fairly standard, if a few shades darker, buddy cop comedy, but it sets itself apart by being far more hysterical, and far more politically incorrect than its more generic counterparts. Hilarious, engrossing, and just a full out blast to watch, The Guard is the kind of film that will make fans of In Bruges wait excitedly for the next project from one of the brothers McDonagh.

Grade: A-

Oliver Sherman:

A compelling study of the effects of warfare and of mankind's dual capacity for compassion and violence, Oliver Sherman is a tense tour de force. Propelled by three stellar lead performances from Garret Dillahunt as Sherman Oliver, an ex-soldier who survived a shot to the head but never got over the psychological aftermath, Donal Logue as Franklin Page, the man who saved Sherman's life and has since settled into a quiet, peaceful existence and Molly Parker as Irene, page's serene but willful wife, the film follows Sherman's surprise arrival on the Page's doorstep and its effects on both him and on the patient and, initially at least, understanding Page's. Written and directed assuredly by first timer Ryan Redford, Oliver Sherman is a stellar look at three people pushed to their limits and beyond and the long term consequences of trauma for two very different men.

Grade: A

Our Day Will Come:

The feature-length debut of director Romain Gavras (most well known for his inflammatory video for MIA's "Born Free"), Our Day Will Come deals with many similar concerns in its examinations of two red-heads who feel ostracized by their society and set off on a nihilistic road trip towards Ireland, where they believe they may finally gain acceptance. Remy (a forceful Olivier Bartelemy) feels alienated, disaffected, isolated and bullied by everyone around him until he assaults his mother and sister and escapes their control. He quickly falls under the thrall of Patrick (Vincent Cassel, stellar as always) a charismatic, racist, violent psychoanalyst who tells Remy he can be his own Messiah and lead redheads into a day of prominence. A pitch black comedy that at times becomes a disturbingly violent examination of alienation and racism in French society, Our Day Will Come is a road comedy for the deeply troubled. While the film at times loses itself in surrealistic tangents (one of which features Cassel in a threesome while a stone faced red headed girl watches from a couch) and is often too on the nose in its "red heads as minorities discriminated against in French society" metaphors, Our Day Will Come is consistently interesting and occasionally moving, with two great performances and a propulsive pace that moves on from any useless or uninteresting tangent quickly enough that none prove too distracting. For much of its runtime, I was reminded of a remark made by Don Cheadle in The Guard soon after he meets Brendan Gleeson: "I don't know whether you're really fucking smart or really fucking stupid." Gleeson just smiles in response, and Our Day Will Come seems to grimace at the same question. It doesn't know the answer, and neither does Gavras (who was often befuddled and unable to answer questions during the Q&A that followed the screening), but neither seems to care. Both the film and its director seem satisfied to just be along for the ride.

Grade: B (though I reserve the right to reevaluate in either direction if I get the chance to see the film again upon its wide release)

On the Shore:

Police Captain Michel Matarasso (played well by the expressive French character actor Daniel Duval) is plagued by nightmares and grows weary of his job, and his listless relationship with a stunt coordinator. All of this changes, though, when he discovers the body of a young woman who has committed suicide and begins to involve himself in the lives of her former friends, family and colleagues. Ostensibly, the film aims to examine the need for love and the pain of loneliness, but far too often it becomes a meandering mess, confusing silence for subtlety and muddled writing for evocative mystery. The film feels needlessly, endlessly drawn out at 90 minutes (a fact which was not helped by the stifling heat in the theater, which got so bad I honestly considered walking out, something I have never done before) and seems so confused about what exactly its trying to say that it ends up saying nothing at all. The first fictional film from documentarian Julien Donada, the film is certainly atmospheric. Unfortunately, all the expansive atmospheres and beautiful scenery serve to expose the emptiness at the films center, a hollow core which no amount of beautiful beach front cinematography can fully fill in.

Grade: C
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