For Those in Peril (3 stars)

For Those in Peril

Paul Wright's debut is original in its idea, style and conception, and made with loving dedication

Paul Wright’s feature debut is a sad, salt-streaked fable with the timelessness and sour melodrama of a sea shanty, if little of the boisterousness. Its style takes two strains of strongly Scottish-linked cinema - the grim social realist drama of deprived and stunted lives, and the documentary portrayal of hard rural work – and ties them together with a strip of nightmarish magic realism. George MacKay plays young Aaron, sole survivor of a fishing accident and sufferer, consequently, of a small community’s resentment and scorn, as well as his own advanced survivor guilt. Aaron manages his pain via the increasingly elaborate hope/delusion that there’s been some sort of mistake and his dead buddies, who include his older brother, are on the point of returning from the deep. A more realistic connection to continued life and hope is offered by the companionship of the beautiful Jane (Nichola Burley), but she has problems of her own. Burley’s luminous moments onscreen aside, the grimness does get wearying; and a whole lot of Terrence Malick-style poetic-whispers-in-your-ear on the soundtrack tip the film too often into self-conscious artiness. Ultimately, it doesn’t have quite enough plot to fill its length; most of the story being revealed early on, there’s not quite enough narrative tension to sustain energy all the way to the final drift into poetic allegory. Like a lot of British debuts, For Those in Peril finally feels rather more like an over-extended short than a full feature. But it’s original in its idea, style and conception, and made with loving dedication. One senses that Wright, working with the always bold and innovative Warp Films, has held out for and been allowed to make the film he had in his head; and that, along with the considerable acclaim he has earned for this work, bodes well for an interesting future.

Screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013.

For Those in Peril

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 1h 33min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Paul Wright
  • Written by: Paul Wright
  • Cast: Kate Dickie, George MacKay, Michael Smiley
  • UK release: 4 October 2013

A young misfit is the only survivor from a fatal fishing trip in which five men from his remote Scottish community are lost at sea. When the superstitious locals lay the blame on him, he resolves to recover the lost men.