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EIFF 2013: For Those In Peril Review

by Steven Neish

For Those in Peril film still

Director: Paul Wright.

Starring: George MacKay, Kate Dickie, Nichola Burley, Michael Smiley, Jordan Young.

Running Time: 93 minutes.

SynopsisAaron (George MacKay), a young misfit in a remote Scottish community, is the lone survivor of a strange fishing accident that claimed the lives of five men including his older brother. Spurred on by sea-going folklore and local superstition, the village blames him for this tragedy, making him an outcast amongst his own people.

The sole survivor of a fishing accident that claimed the life of his brother, Michael (Jordan Young), and four other fishermen, Aaron is struggling to come to terms with the recent tragedy – and he’s not alone. Unable to remember anything of the incident, Aaron is unable to satisfy the villagers with an explanation, for which they resent and ostracise him. Unable to cope with their cumulative guilt, and abandoned by his one remaining confidant, Michael’s ex (Nichola Burley), Aaron re-purposes a childhood story that his mother (Kate Dickie) used to tell him and his brother, convincing himself not only that Michael is alive and well, but that he can still be saved from The Devil In The Ocean.

In competition for the Michael Powell award at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, FOR THOSE IN PERIL marks the debut of Scottish writer-director Paul Wright. It’s an accomplished effort by any estimation, but the fact that it is Wright’s first feature makes it all the more impressive an achievement. The film might be relatively light on plot, but the director easily fills the 93 minute running time with a narrative that is complex and engaging in other ways.

Certain images and phrases are repeated throughout the film, gaining greater significance each time they appear, while numerous mediums are combined and contrasted in order to give the film a dream-like, almost hypnotic aspect that is by turns distancing and almost uncomfortably intimate. Comprising home video, documentary footage and scenes captured by camera phone, FOR THOSE IN PERIL is a patchwork of formats, expertly edited by Michael Aaglund; a multi-sensory tapestry that feels strangely mythic long before we are introduced to The Devil In The Ocean.

George MacKay is haunting as Aaron, approaching the role with a sensitivity and ambiguity that make him incredibly compelling. He appears to have already revised much of his own childhood, re-casting his brother as some sort of fallen hero, setting a precedent for delusional thinking that will later see him obsessing over a local fairytale that everyone else has long since forgotten. Kate Dickie amazes too as his heartbroken mother, particularly in a scene in which she struggles through a karaoke performance dedicated defiantly to “her boys”.

It is in the melancholic whimsy of the fairytale that FOR THOSE IN PERIL finds its identity, however, adding yet another layer to Wright’s already multifaceted narrative. After campaigning to return to the water and failing to find a fisherman willing to take him out, Aaron constructs a makeshift raft and sets out in search of the legendary leviathan itself. These scenes are eerily reminiscent of films such as WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE and BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, but differ drastically in both their desperation and distinct lack of childhood innocence.

FOR THOSE IN PERIL is a triumph in storytelling, devastating as a human drama about survivor-guilt but also as a dark fiction that borders at times on the folkloric. Carried confidently by MacKay and Dickie, Wright’s film is an intense, absorbing and poetic portrait of loneliness and isolation, shot beautifully by Benjamin Kracun.

5 STARS

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