DIR/WRI: Paul Wright • PRO: Mary Burke, Polly Stokes • DOP: Benjamin Kracun • ED: Michael Aaglund • MUS: Erik Enocksson • DES: Simon Rogers • CAST: George MacKay, Kate Dickie, Michael Smiley
Aaron (MacKay) is the sole survivor of a fishing accident, in which five men (including his older brother) were lost. Trying to come to terms with his loss in a small fishing community that sees him as the personification of the disaster, Aaron becomes increasingly obsessed with the sea that took his brother, hoping to find him alive.
What strikes you almost from the start of writer-director Paul Wright’s debut feature-length film is the atmosphere, an atmosphere that he and his crew ably permeate through every frame of this film. With the film being set in a small coastal community, you can almost taste the sea salt in the grey overcast air and you can nearly smell the pungent whiff of freshly caught fish. By the time you meet the reclusive Aaron and his mother (Dickie) for the first time, you’re already suitably invested in this community.
George MacKay, as Aaron, does a fantastic job of showing a conflicted young man’s growing isolation in his home community merely because he survived a terrible disaster. He serves as a constant reminder that his fishing crewmates aren’t coming home. The grief felt by the town runs alongside Aaron’s increasing alienation and both are emotionally palpable.
Wright imbues an undercurrent of sea folklore in the background throughout, which lends the film some of it’s more surreal scenes. Most of which work well to make you wonder about Aaron and his return from the sea. Is he somehow responsible? Could he be the devil that mothers tell their scared sons about in the sea myths?
Special mention too for Kate Dickie as Aaron’s mum, Cathy, who is excellent as she captures an overwhelmingly distressed mother who’s lost one son and in danger of losing the other. But needs to hold herself together as best she can for Aaron’s sake.
A scene in which she dedicates a karaoke rendition of “First Time E’er I Saw Your Face” to her boys is touching, especially so when it’s intercut with scenes of Aaron starting to come apart at the seams in the forest. Fans of her performance here should do well to check out the excellent Andrea Arnold’s 2006 drama Red Road.
A community’s abandonment of a man in desparate need of help is played out effectually and Aaron’s steady decline into obsession and madness crescendos painfully in the final few scenes.
With great work from all his cast, Paul Wright has crafted a very good film filled with atmosphere and high on affecting emotion – Aaron’s fragility and confusion, Cathy’s heartbreak and the community’s grief, frustration and suspicion. A film worth seeking out.
For Those In Peril is released on 8th November 2013