Three days in to this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, and while I haven’t seen any major stinkers, there’s been nothing to blow me away either. Let’s start with the longest. Blood of My Blood is a three hour drama set in Lisbon, based around the travails of Maria (Rita Blanco) and her extended family. The themes are family loyalty and sacrifice, but the tools unfortunately include a plot reveal straight from the box of melodramatic cliches. Also, a climactic scene is overly unpleasant – that’s enough forced blow jobs for one year, Edinburgh, thanks all the same.
Lovely Molly is the latest from Eduardo Blair Witch Sanchez, and suffers from overfamiliarity. Not only does the use of video footage recall his debut (although this is not a found footage film), but plot elements recall recent releases such as The Silent House and The Pact.
Gretchen Lodge is very good as newlywed Molly, who moves with her husband Tim into her parents’ home. Pretty soon, things are going bump in the night and family skeletons are emerging from the closet. Is this an actual haunting, or is Molly going nuts?
The answer seemed pretty obvious to me, despite some attempts to imply a supernatural dimension – which Sanchez admitted in the Q&A were bumped up after early test screenings. Although that does give us one memorably eerie image at the close, it also means the story doesn’t completely satisfy at either level. An OK watch that doesn’t offer anything new, you can safely wait until this one’s on telly.
That’s also true of Flying Blind, a BBC production starring Helen McCrory as an aerospace engineer who starts a relationship with Algerian student – OR IS HE? – played by Najib Oudghiri. Though nicely played and good to look at (Bristolians can play spot the location), the central relationship feels like a dramatic construct rather than anything real. If the superior Page Eight last year couldn’t muster a cinema release, there’s no reason for this not to go straight to BBC 2.
Better things came with Life Without Principle, Johnny To’s crime thriller set against a global financial shitstorm. Various characters – among them a cop, a gangster, a bank saleswoman, and a bunch of financially strapped innocent bystanders – are involved in are affected by the murder of a loan shark. I’d bet my money on a Hollywood remake of this coming our way before long, so invest some time in the original.
Finally, one of my favourites to date. The best thing about festivals is sitting down for a film about which you no little and expect nothing, and being delighted by the result. That’s what happened with Flicker, a deadpan Swedish comedy centred around the struggling Unicom Telecommunications company.
Attempting to launch a new 4G network, but faced with a misguided advertising campaign and customer dissatisfaction and regular sabotage, the company also has staff who aren’t quite up to the challenge. Chief among them is sad sack Kenneth (Jacob Nordenson), whose recurring IT problems leave a crucial report incomplete, and Trod (Knell Bergqvist), the company head, who is heroically unaware of his own inadequacy.
Though we eventually realise the film is set in 2011, the design seems to have been pickled in the 70s. Almost everything at Unicom (including the cars, the decor, and Kenneth’s entire wardrobe) is in shades of brown. (Maybe bits of Sweden do look like this, but it seems unlikely.) Their attempts at promotional launches are no more up to date.
A number of plots intertwine, occasionally threatening to tip from somewhat black comedy to outright tragedy, while never quite doing so. Occasionally absurdist, with moments of outright slapstick, the film is quite a charmer. Lovely closing shot, too.