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For Those in Peril

October 11, 2014

For Those in Peril (2013)
Director: Paul Wright
Actor: George MacKay, Kate Dickie, Nichola Burley

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Synopsis: In an isolated Scottish coastal town, Aaron (George MacKay) is the sole survivor of a fishing boat accident which has claimed the lives of many of the other young men in the community. Some months on and George is struggling with a clear case of survivor guilt…

Review: When I was hawking my debut screenplay project round to various film agencies and production companies earlier this year, one of the producers I spoke to referenced a similarity he saw between my screenplay (Eivissa) and this British film which had just gone out on general release. Having finally caught up with it, I can see the loose similarities for sure – they’re both about bereavement, they’re both set in distinctive coastal milieus, and they’re both expressionistic dramas. Therein the comparison ends alas, for although I haven’t actually made my film yet, they are poles apart in sensibility, and I really feel For Those in Peril is a naive, undercooked, clumsy film which squanders all the potential inherent in its scenario (and the evident technical skills of its director, Paul Wright).

The biggest problem with For Those in Peril is that it ends up not really being about its subject matter (trauma, bereavement, social exclusion, folklore). Instead, the narrative raw materials are simply an excuse for a cacophony of superficial and increasingly sadistic filmic devices and images. The story there to be told is a decent one, and I’m certainly all for immersive, unconventional cinematic universes, but Wright’s command of film grammar is utterly hollow. No scene lasts longer than a few seconds, there’s a continual, almost comical use of Super-8 flashbacks, there are too many broody/mysterious close-ups, an abundance of inorganic colour-coded expressionistic mood scenes, and a predictable late detour into horror, gore mode. Where the story warranted more patient, sensitive, Malickian poetics, Wright simply pulverises the material rather than letting it breathe. (October 2014)

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