Edinburgh International Film Festival Report: Week One
Dylan Walker is attending the Edinburgh International Film Festival and reviews Paris Can Wait, God's Own Country & Bad Day For The Cut.
The time has come once again for Scotland’s gorgeous capital city to host the ever successful Edinburgh International Film Festival, which is now celebrating its 71st year. The line-up is once again fantastic, showing off the best from independent filmmakers whilst also treating us to some larger studio films. While I would have loved to have seen everything the Edinburgh International Film Festival had to offer on its first week, I was only able to see as many as I could.
It is also worth mentioning that I am under embargo for many of the films I saw, so expect to see more films covered in my second week. But for now, here are the films I had the pleasure of seeing during the first week.
God’s Own Country
I went into this film like I had with nearly every film I got to see at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, that’s without knowing anything about the film, and I couldn’t be happier that I did for this film. God’s Own Country is easily the best film I saw in my first week at the festival, whilst also being a contender for the best film I’ve seen this year – not bad for the first screening I attended.
The film follows Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor) an emotionally distant farmer who is struggling with the pressure to look after the family farm after his father (Ian Hart) suffers a debilitating stroke, impairing his movement. Johnny is forced to confront his feelings when Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), a Romanian migrant worker, comes to live on the farm.
Watching God’s Own Country, it would never once occur to you that this is Francis Lee’s debut feature, his directing here is nothing short of masterful. Every shot feels precise and deliberate, every music queue controlled and to the point. This is clearly the work of someone who has a great grasp on the language of cinema.
In many ways God’s Own Country is not a standard love story; it’s unsentimental, perhaps even cold. This is accentuated by a very minimalist score that is only used sparingly throughout the feature and cinematography that highlights vast establishing shots. Despite its superficial coldness, it is perhaps one of the warmest films of the year, a film in which love is beautifully explored.
What makes this film as powerful as it is are the phenomenal performances. Josh O’Connor is outstanding as Johnny, his performance is both emotionally restrained and bursting to the seams with forthright vehemence. Alec Secaeanu is equally as fantastic as his co-star, and their shared scenes are some of the most heart wrenchingly pulchritudinous scenes I’ve seen all year.
All of this is complimented exquisitely by Joshua James Richards’ magnificent cinematography which elegantly captures the vast Yorkshire landscapes. Each shot feels so meticulously crafted and detailed, adding to the films cold and distant feeling. God’s Own Country is a masterful study of isolation and love, it is one of the best love stories I’ve seen in a very long time. I wholeheartedly recommend everyone check it out on its September 1st release.
Bad Day for The Cut
Bad Day for The Cut is a Northern Irish revenge film that, despite feeling somewhat predictable, is solidly entertaining. The plot follows Donald (Nigel O’Neill) a middle aged farmer who sets out on a revenge mission after his aging mother is murdered in what he suspects was a hit. In his mission, he meets Bartosz (Józef Pawlowski) who is on his own quest to rescue his sister from the crime syndicate led by Frankie (Susan Lynch). The two team up and ensure on what could only be seen as an act of suicide to take down the syndicate.
As a whole, Bad Day for The Cut doesn’t really mesh together, but some fantastic performances and visually astute action scenes make the film a fun, if rather predictable ride. Nigel O’Neill is fantastic as Donald, even if his character feels rather underwritten: out of nowhere Donald has the capacity to kill and seems to show no empathy, despite this not being alluded to in the film at all. Donald also suffers from these strange nightmares in which he sees his dead mother, these scenes are visually very well directed but they are completely juxtaposed with the rest of the films visual tone.
Despite the quite serious tone of the film, it does have its moments of levity. These moments are actually some of the film’s best; one sequence involving a boiling pot of beans and a forest expertly juggles these tones, never once letting one overtake the other. Despite the action scenes being smaller in scale, they are well shot and nicely edited; there’s never any confusion to what’s happening on screen and all the blows are accounted for.
Despite Bad Day for The Cut’s unevenness and somewhat jarring visual tones, it is still a great theatrical debut for writer/director Chris Baugh.
Paris Can Wait
Paris Can Wait is not only the worst film I’ve seen at the Edinburgh International Film Festival but it also has the distinction of being one of the worst films I’ve seen in a cinema. The plot features rich people walking around scenic locations in France and eating at expensive restaurants in excess; if that’s your thing then you’re in luck, because there’s 92 minutes of it. 92 long minutes.
Diane Lane stars as Anne, wife of hotshot Hollywood producer Michael, played by Alec Baldwin. When Anne is unable to fly with Michael to Budapest due to an indistinct ear problem, Michael’s business partner Jacques, played by Arnaud Viard, offers to drive her to Paris in order to meet Michael once he returns from Budapest. Along the way they make various stops at many different locations across France and a romance begins to brew between Jacques and Anne.
There is really not much to say about Paris Can Wait other than it’s incredibly boring. The performances are almost universally poor, with Diane Lane looking bewildered by everything Jacques does and says. Alec Baldwin turns up at the start in nothing more than a glorified cameo, giving the best “yeah, yeah just give me my cheque” performances I’ve seen in a while. The cinematography is stale and boring, making the film look like it was made for the purpose of going straight to daytime television. The soundtrack is ear-piercingly annoying as it tries unbelievably hard to be romantic and ends up coming across like porno music.
If you’re really into different types of cheese and shots of people eating then I’d recommend this feature. For everyone else, stay far away.
Stay tuned for my week two coverage of the Edinburgh International Film Festival! What are your most anticipated films of the fest?
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