EIFF: Edinburgh Film Festival Review Round-Up

Edinburgh Film Festival has a wide showcase of fantastic indie and mainstream films on offer for film fans across the UK. The festival spans two weeks filled with cinematic joy and uncountable bacon sandwiches. Click HERE to see our top 5 of the festival but here’s a round up of what we thought about the others that we got to see:

 

Not Another Happy Ending 

Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) has hung up her sci-fi boots for now (At least until Avengers 2) and stepped into the realm of the quirky rom-com. The film follows Gillan as a novelist struggling to find a publisher for her debut novel. When young publisher of the year Tom Duval (Stanley Weber) gives her a shot, she finds huge success that is soon brought to ruin by writer’s block on the sequel.

It’s a fairly generic affair that never draws as much out premise as it could. It’s redeemed by a pair of likeable leads and some strong support but with lots of the jokes falling flat you can’t help but feel another re-write was in order. It’s not bad, but lacks anything special to distinguish it.

 

Leviathan

Warning: This is not a typical film. Art-house barely covers it. If you’re looking for a film with narrative, plot, characters… basically information of any kind, this isn’t it. That said, as an experience, it is very powerful. The camera almost resents its viewers, never making it easy for you to adjust to what you are being shown. One can argue it is a fantastic experimental horror film rather than a documentary, certainly I’ve rarely felt as uneasy whilst watching a movie.

The film feels more like a fever dream nightmare more than a traditional cinematic experience. Despite this, it demands to be seen on the big screen to be truly effective. The stunningly abrasive sound design with batter your senses as the jolting visuals screw with your mind – an overabundance of fish guts and the vicious meat robots the sailors degenerate into will leave a lasting impression for sure.

 

Mister John

While there is nothing ostensibly wrong with Mister John, in fact many people will surely like it, none of the characters or their issues really connected with me. Gerry leaves his unhappy home life behind as he flies out to Singapore to help with the funeral arrangements for his recently deceased brother. As soon as he arrives, his identity gradually begins to slip as he becomes more and more entangled in the life of his dead sibling.

A unsettling tale of grief, disillusionment and familial duty strikes the right notes but they ring hollow when it’s hard to care about the main character. Aiden Gillan (Petyr Baelish/Littlefinger in Game of Thrones) gives a strong performance in this unhinged and detached drama that leaves us unable to connect, or truly care, about what happens.

 

Hawking

As one of, if not the, most prolific scientist alive, Steven Hawking’s life makes for captivating viewing.  Focusing more on his life rather than his world-shaking discoveries, this is the official documentary that offers the true voice of Steven and those closest to him on his remarkable life.

From his years as an under-achiever, to a revolutionary PhD, being diagnosed with the crippling Motor Neuron Disease, being given 2-3 years to live and his various marriages and divorces, he has lead a tumultuous life where the ever-present threat of death is constantly looming. Despite this, the story of how he managed to redefine the way in which humanity conceives itself and the universe we inhabit is an unmissable one.

 

Breathing Earth

Breathing Earth follows artist Susumu Shingu in his efforts to raise public awareness of environmental issues through his serenely captivating art which flows and dances to the movement of the elements, primarily wind and water. He seeks to create an eco-aware village run entirely on green energy through his uniquely designed wind turbines. The documentary explores both his inspirations and his journey to create the ecological haven.

Shingu himself is a genial and tranquil guide and there are certainly moments of extreme beauty here. These are the moments when the film excels. In one particularly memorable scene, Shingu and his wife discover an exodus of migratory butterflies that paint their forest home in vividly beautiful colors that remind us that this is a world worth protecting.

However, the trials and tribulations they encounter in the efforts to build their dream village drain momentum from the film, leaving it feeling like its drifting in the wind rather than a powerful gale that sweeps you along. It lacks focus, but it’s calm grace is undeniably mesmerizing.

 

 

Shooting Bigfoot

Shooting Bigfoot is less about the big hairy beast that may or may not exist in the woodlands of America and more about the typically big hairy beasts that hunt him. Thank god because what a hilarious bunch of lunatics they are. I don’t mean to be dismissive or rude but my god this was one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Unfortunately I can’t say I wasn’t always laughing with those being filmed…

The editing of footage takes certain liberties at times and culminates in a climax that can only be described as incredibly convenient. However, such issues are easily forgiven when the rest of the film is as entirely enjoyable as it is. This is a film that will leave you full of wonder about the human race, and you will never again underestimate the power of belief and faith. Well worth a watch.

 

The East

Brit Marling has been garnering attention in the screenwriting world since her 2011 film Another Earth and 2012’s Sound of My Voice. Working once again with Zal Batmanglij (who sadly isn’t actually Batman) she has co-written an intelligent eco-thriller that doesn’t disappoint.

Torn between her life as a corporate secret agent and the anti-consumerist lifestyle she must adopt as part of her mission to infiltrate eco-terrorist group The East, Brit Marling at times struggles to capture the intensity of either side. Whilst good, she is often overshadowed by Alexander Skarsgård’s as the driven (and eternally handsome) leader of the terrorist family, Ellen Page as the spikey and distrustful veteran and Toby Kebbell in a standout performance as the group’s medic, Doc.

As the group wage war against the owners and CEO’s of multinational conglomerates who earn their living by ruining the lives of others, relationships build, break and tensions run high as a series of stings get progressively more dramatic. Characters like Doc simultaneously ground the action and commanding the emotional drama of the piece. There are moments where dullness sets in but overall the film is a very solid thriller with a great cast performing at their best.

 

Struck By Lightning

There have been a lot of comparisons between Struck By Lightning and contemporary teen drama Easy A. Though both offer a comedic satire on high school life, Struck By Lightning takes a much darker tone and suffers for it.

Between the trauma of unfulfilled dreams, the dangers of ambition and fear of difference, the comedy of this piece often feels outweighed by the heavy subject matter. The main character,Carson, seemingly feeds off this darkness and the jokes as a result are often more snarky then funny.

There are laughs to be had here but the film feels shallow and undeveloped. Compared to competitors such as Easy A, it isn’t competing on the same level.

 

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