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Wayland’s Song

November 24, 2013

Wayland’s Song (2013)
Director: Richard Jobson
Actors: Michael Nardone, Hannah Lederer, Orla Brady

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Synopsis: Wayland (Michael Nardone) is a returning soldier from Afghanistan. His daughter has sinisterly vanished, so Wayland sets out to uncover what’s happened to her.

Review: Richard Jobson’s artful attempt to render the social and psychological wasteland a man encounters after a spell in Afghanistan is laudable in so many respects. First, Wayland’s Song is evidently a film that’s been made on a limited industrial ‘canvas’ and budget, but you wouldn’t guess it based on Jobson’s polished cinematic grammar. In a sense he’s more interested in the idea of the inner hinterland his protagonist Wayland traverses, with Helmand and ‘combat’ being more abstract states of mind than scenarios that necessitated actual realisation in Afghanistan. Also, rather than dealing explicitly and directly with a narrative about the war in Afghanistan, Jobson has ambitiously fashioned the film around a classic ‘domestic revenge’ plot hook. Only the canny viewer will get (beyond the more obvious scenes of trauma-induced flashback) that this is a film about a vile, decadent society that doesn’t give two hoots about the brave men it sent out to unimaginably dark places in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Superficially, the film has echoes of Adrian Lyne’s more pulpy Jacob’s Ladder and – less obviously – Pawel Pawlikowski’s tricksy The Woman in the Fifth. My only marginal critique and one levelled to some of Jobson’s other films, notably New Town Killers, is that sometimes his films can be a mishmash of genres, styles and techniques (although I’m sure he would justify his graphic novelesque air of an indestructible man out for revenge as a more atypical, interesting way of outing his overfamiliar story of war-induced trauma). Ultimately though, it’s Jobson’s fine cinematic eye with the remarkable hellish red design of ‘Tony’s Bar’ and the compelling sequence where Wayland goes into the wood on the search for his daughter, which will stick longest in my memory. (November 2013)

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