The Edinburgh International Film Festival was the first film festival I ever visited back in 2004, it introduced me to a new world of film that I loved deeply. For the first time I was able to see the smaller and more obscure films (or films that didn’t even get a general release) on the big screen. It was magical. I continued to visit the festival until it was moved in 2008 to June, which due to exams stopped me from going. But I vowed to return, and this year I did. Did it live up to my previous visits? Not exactly. In the past this festival has offered me such enjoyable films as Serenity, Knocked Up, Coffee & Cigarettes, Little Miss Sunshine, Clerks II, Paranoid Park and Two Days in Paris, and have been able to meet people such as Judd Apatow, John Waters, Brian dePalma and Mike White, all these things have made the EIFF stick with me as my favourite film festival. There was very little this year to compete with what I had seen previously. Of course this is not a fault of the festivals, times are hard and money has been cut from events such as this, but this not the most exciting line up. Check out my thoughts on some of the films after the jump.
I knew nothing of this film when walking in and when it started I believed it to be a real documentary, when I realised the film was fictional I was mildly disappointed but this is not a fault of the films, merely my perception of it. The film follows Luis (Smith), a young movie fan (whose favourite director is Spike Lee) who has decided to document the final 36 hours of his life on tape before he and his friend Ronald (Goodwin) head off to Afghanistan as US Marines. There is a lot to like about this film, the characters feel real and we can relate to what we see on screen but one has to wonder if a fictional documentary is the best way to tell this story, the scenes set in Afghanistan and some scenes set in a hotel room come off a little silly if you think that they are faked. At points the film is a little obnoxious, coming off more as a home movie than a documentary which can get old but in his first feature, Jamil Walker Smith has crafted a film that does carry reality and emotion, it just seems an odd way to pull it off.
Weekender is a look at the 90s rave scene in Manchester featuring two best friends (Lloyd-Hughes & O’Connell) starting up their own club and facing the consequences of what happens when you get involved with the wrong people. The film captures the ambiance of the 90s very well, never over playing the fact that it’s a period piece but it always features a strong 90s vibe in its tone and style, it is an impressive work from director Karl Golden, who also shoots the rave scenes within the film well, creating a real atmosphere for the film. The films plot is nothing we haven’t seen before but the setting and the likable characters make it well worth a watch, a stronger cast and smarter ideas could have pushed this one a little further. It is easily the finest British rave film since Kevin & Perry Go Large.
A far better title would have been “NonSense”. It goes to show you that even with a swell director and a good cast, you can still make one of the worst films of the year. In a world where mankind start losing each of their senses, one by one, a chef (McGregor) and a scientist (Green) fall in love despite the chaos that surrounds them. Eva Green is absolutely appalling in this movie, offering up one of the blandest performances in years, trying to act reserved she seems to just be bored throughout the whole film and that might just rub off on the audience. The plot is interesting but is played out in such a laughably bad way that you just can’t take it seriously, with a script that packs in more melodrama than EastEnders Omnibus and dialogue that would make Kevin Williamson giggle at its overblown and unrealistic nature. The cast apart from Green seem to be struggling to make something out of this mess but it’s no use, there is just no saving this film. On a side note, they mention losing every sense apart from touch, guess that one isn’t very important then.
A Better Life offers a better film being played at EIFF. The film is essentially a modern retelling of the classic picture Bicycle Thieves set in Los Angeles. Carlos (Bichir) is an illegal Mexican immigrant trying to make a living in Los Angeles for himself and his ungrateful son (Julián), after acquiring a truck to start up his own gardening business disaster strikes when the truck is stolen by a day laborer. As they search for the truck Carlos and his son bond but can this be the road to a better life? The film comes from director Chris Weitz most recently known The Golden Compass and New Moon but this film feels closer in tone to his work on About A Boy, whilst the film does not offer the laughs that that film did, the two films share a great heart and emotion that makes us care for the characters and how their story will end. The performances from the two leads are very strong and whilst the film could never live up to Bicycle Thieves and has an ending that makes you question the films moral it is still a fine piece of entertainment and one of the finer films of the festival.
Look out for part two of this coverage where I discuss Trollhunter, Jack Goes Boating and The Bang Bang Club.