Friday, October 3, 2014

A strange, troubling Scot miserablism fantasy: Paul Wright's quivering FOR THOSE IN PERIL

What a strange film. Not only do its characters morph as the movie moves along, so does the "plot," such as it is, the theme and finally the entire meaning of FOR THOSE IN PERIL, the first full-length film from writer/director Paul Wright (shown below). Set in a terribly backward fishing community in coastal Scotland, immediately after an accident at sea, in which five of the six men aboard were killed -- and the one life saved was a younger and less tutored brother of one of the victims who perhaps should not have gone fishing in the first place -- the movie initially appears to be about that awful situation we refer to as survivor guilt.

Oddly, the movie-maker this film made me most recall is Terence Davies, although Mr. Davies has not, so far as I can remember, made a movie about a fishing village or seaside life. Yet the scenes of family life, of how past impacts on present, the quiet camera movement and the punishing sense of characters being held down by the mores of their community, which include giving over to everything from bullying to religion, is certainly part of Davies' territory.

While the characters of many of the townsfolk we meet remain pretty much the same -- critical, conformist, and with a distinctive fear of anything "other" --  it is the characters of the two brothers, Aaron (the survivor) and Michael (now dead), their mother Cathy, and Michael's girlfriend Jane that grow and change so much in the course of the film.

Aaron (shown above, and further above) takes on the pivotal role here and moves from sad, guilt-ridden young man to someone who is perhaps "slow," if not downright feeble mentally, to a frightening horror and then to maybe a saviour, after all. As played by an impressive young actor, George McKay -- currently on view in Pride and the streamable How I Live Now -- he turns this tale into something rich, strange, menacing and more.

As the mother, Kate Dickie (above) turns in an equally strong performance. She's the character with whom we can most identify, and so she carries us along until.... (The film has one of the more bizarre finales seen in some time. And yet there has been plenty of foreshadowing along the way, so this does not come, as they say, out of nowhere.)

Jordan Young, as the dead brother who may not be quite all we had imagined, and Nichola Burley (above) as his best girl (the one person among the townspeople who does not forsake Aaron), are both up to snuff, creating full-bodied characters and owning their screen time beautifully.

Full of tall tales, mythology, sea life and more, little in For Those in Peril is as it first appears. But somehow, by the end of this unusual endeavor, I don't think you'll mind at all.

This award-winning film, from Random Media and Cinedigm, opens today in Los Angeles at that popular site for indie film, the Arena Cinema. Next week, on October 7, it will become available via VOD nationwide, and on DVD, as an Amazon Exclusive -- though, as of now, you can find no mention of this at the Amazon site (except for the British PAL edition of the film, which is not playable on American DVD players).

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