It’s almost hard to believe, but the 2017 Edinburgh International Film Festival has come to a close. This year saw some of the festivals best, with God’s Own Country opening and setting the scene for what would be a very successful year. Not all the films were winners though, as we saw last week with the shockingly bad Paris Can Wait, a film which I’m still recovering from.
This week I am able to review many of the films I saw last week, as the embargo has finally lifted. So, without further ado, here is my final piece of coverage for the festival.
Attraction (Fyodor Bondarchuk)
Attraction is a somewhat successful science fiction action film, boasting some impressive visuals and a few great performances. It’ssadly held back by its clumsy storytelling and overly obvious themes. The film, directed by Fyodor Bondarchuk, centres around Yulia (Irina Starshenbaum) daughter of Valentin Lebedev (Oleg Menshikov), a colonel who is sent to deal with a crashed extra-terrestrial ship which was shot down by the Russian military. The alien who piloted the ship reveals himself to be humanoid and a romance between him and Yulia begins to blossom.
Attraction is certainly an ambitions film, attempting to emulate what many great science fiction films do: tell us something about humanity. It’s in this that Attraction loses itself, its overtly obvious message is spelled out to the audience so many times that it becomes condescending. There is no attempt to make the message subtle, characters just announce it to the audience like they’re too stupid to understand it. Director Fyodor Bondarchuk may have had good intentions but the effect is patronising.
Perhaps what Bondarchuk lacks in subtly he makes up for in technical mastery. Many of the special effects on display here are often phenomenal and the action set-pieces are shot with great precision. An early set-piece with the crashing alien ship is a standout moment. Many of the later action scenes also impress with great cinematography and fantastic stunt work.
Performances here are also fantastic, with Irina Starshenbaum and Oleg Menshikov giving standout performances as the father and daughter with a difficult and strained relationship. Alexander Petrov gives a suitably evil performance as the main antagonist Artyom and Rinal Mukhametov is brilliantly wide-eyed as the alien Hekon. Despite good performances, however, much of the cast struggle to deliver the somewhat clunky and uninspired dialogue.
Attraction is an interesting science fiction film that has some fantastic performances and visual effects, but it’s sadly held back by an unpolished script and its lack of thematic subtly.
Double Date (Benjamin Barfoot)
Double Date is a fantastically entertaining comedy, that had me laughing from beginning to end. The plot follows Jim (Danny Morgan) and Alex (Michael Socha) as they set out on a mission to lose Jim’s virginity. Along the way they encounter Kitty (Kelly Wenham) and Lulu (Georgia Groome), two girls who seem rather too interested in Jim and Alex, as the plot unravels it becomes clear that Kitty and Lulu have a mission of their own, and it’s not pretty.
I can’t remember the last time I laughed as much as I did in Double Date, which is a true testament to just how well-crafted the screenplay is here. Jokes rarely miss their mark, which is impressive considering they come so quickly. This is all helped by the great cast, who all give fantastic performances.
Danny Morgan, who also serves as the films screenwriter, is brilliant as the down on his luck Jim, who just can’t seem to catch a break. Michael Socha is in great contrast to the softly spoken Jim as the meatheaded Alex, who only seems to care about sex. Both Kelly Wenham and Georgia Groome are great as the antagonists of the piece, with Wenham giving a suitably intense and frighting performance as Kitty.
This is all complimented by director Benjamin Barfoot’s fantastic visual style and brilliant directing which elevates the film to another level. I was completely engrossed and entertained by Double Date, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to watch a comedy that might actually make them laugh.
The Last Photograph (Danny Huston)
The Last Photograph features some fantastic performances and interesting elements, though this is not enough to make up for its sloppy editing and uneven script. The film, directed and starring Danny Huston, follows Tom Hammond (Huston) as the last remaining photograph of his son is stolen from him in a random robbery. This sends Tom on a downward spiral as he searches for his last shared photograph with his son.
Danny Huston is incredible here as Tom, it is truly one of his best performances. Many of his best moments are when there is little dialogue; the nuances of his performance truly shine in these scenes. However, his acting talent clearly has not transferred over into his directing capabilities. Huston’s directing is dull and monotonous, with a distinct lack of purpose.
This dullness is carried over into almost every other aspect of the film aside from the performances. The editing is distinctly awful here, cutting between timelines with no real sense of direction or intent. The cinematography fares better but is still lacking any real style, aside for the occasional well framed shot, the camera work on display here is fairly pedestrian. The score is also poor, so poor in fact, I can’t remember a single note.
The Last Photograph is filled to the brim with fantastic performances, but all of this seems to be in vain when the surrounding film is so empty.
The Dark Mile (Gary Love)
The Dark Mile was the last film I saw at the festival, and the best was certainly not saved for last. The Dark Mile is a confusing and empty horror film that is completely lacking in any substance. The plot follows Claire (Deirdre Mullins) and Louise (Rebecca Calder) a couple who have decided to spend some time away from the city and go on a boating holiday in the Scottish Highlands. Their innocent trip soon takes a turn for the worst as the eccentric locals begin to become far more sinister than they originally appeared.
The Dark Mile’s biggest success is its two leads, who are both fantastic in their roles and have fantastic chemistry together. It’s just a shame that the film surrounding them is so devoid of scares and substance. Director Gary Love and screenwriter Gaby Hull clearly wanted to focus the film around building tension, but in doing so they forget to pay anything off. The film ends so abruptly that you’d be forgiven for thinking the projection just cut out. Nothing is answered and the audience is left in the dark.
The screenplay here is incredibly cliched and features some massive leaps in logic. At one point in the narrative the protagonists fail to get a signal for their phones. This is worrying as they are beginning to become suspicious of the locals. It would be perfectly acceptable if there wasn’t a whole other subplot about one of the characters getting sent abusive text messages – how is she able to get a signal? These lapses in logic are manifold in The Dark Mile.
With The Dark Mile being the final press screening I went to, I was eager to leave the screening on a positive note, sadly The Dark Mile was not the film to do that. It is a shame considering the clear talent the two leads clearly possess, but atlas, it is not enough to hold up this uninspired and anticlimactic feature from Gary Love.