EIFF 10: Final Festival Wrap-Up
Our time in Edinburgh is over for another year and unfortunately I saw far more in 14 days than I could ever hope to provide full write-ups on under the tight deadlines. Even more unfortunately it wasn't possible to see everything I wanted to.
So while I covered a number of films more comprehensively earlier this week, we thought it only fair to provide some quick thoughts on the many other movies I managed to see this year...
Solid French thriller starring an always excellent Jean Reno as a retired crime boss who goes out for revenge after being brutally gunned down by a group of masked assassins. While it doesn't offer anything particularly new it's still much more watchable than some of Hollywood's more recent similar output.
A wannabe photographer becomes an overnight art-world sensation after secretly selling X-rated snaps of his girlfriend. No amount of explicit sex scenes can disguise that this British relationship drama is painfully simplistic and offers nothing new outside of a bizarre fascination with watching people pee.
CHASE THE SLUT
Aside from some acting which occasionally slides wildly from competent to questionable, Ryan Denmark's sophomore movie, written by star Vanessa Claire Smith, is an enjoyable enough reworking of Dangerous Liasons and a vast improvement over his debut, Romeo & Juliet vs The Living Dead.
Scottish urban drama about an old man trying to reconcile with his estranged daughter. When powering on drama alone, the film is excellent, but some misjudged side-tracks in to silly humor result in the movie losing some of it's impact. Had the comedy been a lot darker in tone, the end result would've been a lot more satisfying.
THE GOOD HEART
Enjoyable drama featuring Brian Cox as a grizzled old bartender with a dodgy heart who takes homeless lad Paul Dano under his wing to be his barkeeping protege. Cox is on top form as the profane old man who appears to hate everyone, but on the downside poor Isild Le Besco is stuck in a thankless role as an unconvincing love interest and point of conflict dropped in and out of the story as and when required.
Bizarre German drama about young banker who spirals in to increasingly sociopathic activity in the wake of witnessing the suicide of a client and hooking up with an old friend turned small time crook. Lead actor does a good job of keeping his character likeable inspite of the dubious and sometimes creepy activities he partakes in.
Tonally Huge can't work out if it's supposed to be a pastiche of old British comedies of the 70s, a serious drama or a black comedy or all of the above. What could be a focused and tight comedy-drama about two wannabe stand-ups chasing ambitions beyond their abilities instead ends up a cobbled-together bunch of boring set pieces, cliches and conveniences (including a frustrating and illogical jump forward in time) and features two lead characters who aren't particularly likeable or engaging in the first place.
JACKBOOTS ON WHITEHALL
The UK's first attempt at animation Robot Chicken style is rammed full of a British cast composed mostly of any Brit you've never seen in Harry Potter and an absurdist sense of humor which will either entertain or annoy depending on your disposition. While not as flat out hilarious or inventive as Britain's best loved animation export, Wallace and Gromit, there's enough in this alternative take on World War II to hope for more from the writer/director McHenry brothers.
OLLIE KEPLER'S EXPANDING PURPLE WORLD
Films about mental health issues are hard to pull off convincingly and Ollie Kepler is no exception. The movie is an excrutiatingly slow paced wallow in the not entirely convincing mental breakdown of the eponymous character. Voices in the head, conspiracy theories and uncomfortable should-you-laugh-or-not moments that scatter 101 other similar movies abound, to the point that the film's climax mirrors Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller Pi, substituting astrophysics for maths. If a film is going to spend it's entire running time devoted to a man's mental destruction, is it too much to ask for a reason to care, or perhaps some originality in how it is portrayed?
Strong drama about a pair of troubled suicide-obsessed lovers who reunited years after a near tragedy seperated them. The reignited relationship veers in to dangerous territory and sparks a series of incidents which threatens friendships and more. Never treating the material lightly but avoiding preachiness too, Pelican Blood provides a convincing portrait of two people who are perfectly suited for each other for all the wrong reasons and the resulting fallout of their unavoidable self-destructive tendancies.
Simple but effective culture-clash drama about a poor Peruvian family and an affluent American one and the various ways the two cross paths both positively and negatively. Treading carefully to avoid appearing judgemental and making good use to the picturesque Cuzco surroundings, Postales is refreshingly straight in a crowd of films that often feel they are competing to be as obtuse, knowing or referential as possible.
A western transplanted from the US old west to the Autralian outback, Red Hill is a a strong, bloody thriller starring an almost unrecognisably clean-cut Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) as the rookie cop finding himself thrust in to a bloody cat and mouse game on his first day in his new posting. What Red Hill lacks in originality it makes up for with tight, well paced action, good performances and the most random big cat sub-plot since 24 season 2.
Inventive and quirky British comedy channeling Gondry and Gilliam about two “emotional exorcists” who bite off more than they can chew when their own hidden demons cause problems in an important case. The two leads play well off each other and the gentle humor never drifts in to mawkishness, helped by a gruff mustachioed Jason Issacs as the pair's no-nonsense boss.
Vacation! represents the kind of contrasting film mentioned above in the Postales write-up. An interesting enough concept is wasted in a combination of bad acting, poor pacing and too much focus on being misguidedly symbolic instead of telling a story. Four unlikely friends meet up for a week's beach holiday, where in theory their hidden personal issues and more public clashes should result in an interesting character study with room for some weirdness. Instead, an oddball acid trip, casual lesbianism wish fulfillment and a left-field plot twist that goes nowhere leave a rather empty feeling behind.
Poweful low-key drama about a teenage girl from an isolated mountain community trying to track down her drug dealing father in order to save her family's home. Young actress Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as the strong-willed young woman willing to stand up to a range of suspect and dangerous characters standing in her path. Equally strong support cast and director Debra Granik's fantastically captured bleak Ozark landscape make this a must see.
WORLD'S GREATEST DAD
Bobcat Goldthwait directs Robin Williams in what purports itself to be a black comedy but isn't dark enough to be black and doesn't have enough genuine laughs to be a comedy. In the face of tragedy a teacher-cum-frustrated-writer finds himself in a position to realise his dream and salvage the reputation of his porn-obsessed loser son at the same time. A dependable performance from Williams can't cover the shortcomings of the other cardboard cliché characters and a predictable ending.
That's it for this year, a real mixed bag of strong must-sees and soul-crushing rubbish, par for the course for any festival. Hopefully I'll be back again next year to bring you more highs and lows from one of the world's longest running and diverse film festivals.
For more coverage from the Edinburgh International Film Festival click here.
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