Saturday 29th June saw the second UK screening of Paul Wright’s For Those In Peril as part of its run in the Michael Powell Award Competition UK Premiere.
The film tells the story of the sole survivor of a fishing boat accident in a Scottish fishing village; five men have been lost, including the older brother of the protagonist, Aaron, who we then see trying to make sense of his loss and his survival. We see the reactions of his mother, of the other villagers, of his missing brother’s girlfriend; there is resentment at Aaron’s survival and disbelief that he can remember nothing of the accident.
Aaron apparently descends into mental illness and becomes convinced he will find the missing fishermen, which is seen by the other villager as a bad joke, at best; they have lost sons, friends, lovers.
There are several elements which make For Those In Peril an outstanding film.
Firstly, the script, by director Paul Wright is loaded with mythic overtones, which flesh out the fairly simple story I’ve laid out above. Like all the good films, when you’ve seen this, it hangs around in your consciousness for a few days; it certainly took me about a day to figure out what I think are the various death/rebirth myths Wright had worked into his narrative. Interestingly, at the Q&A after the screening, it was said that there was unusually little deviation from the written script once shooting had commenced.
The cinematography neatly contrasts the wide open spaces of the fearsome sea with the claustrophobia of the society of the village and the walled-in relationships to which Aaron has returned in his confusion.
Thirdly, the performances are magnificent; George MacKay as Aaron conveys his character’s, guilt, fear, confusion and monomania frighteningly well; Lewis Howden has a brief and powerful appearance as one of the bereft fathers of the community; and Kate Dickie pulls off a career highlight as Aaron’s mother, whose relationship with her son is central to my interpretation of the film.
Dickie is probably my favourite living actor; when she gets the right part, she’s unmatchable in her intensity, as she is in For Those In Peril.
I was first aware of her work when I saw Andrea Arnold’s Red Road, which is centered on Dickie’s character Jackie. From the first sightings, the viewer knows something is far wrong in Jackie’s life, and Dickie has so far been most at home in the characters of women whose lives could have gone a bit better. Since then I’ve tried to see any movie she’s been in and any theatrical performance. The movies have not all been good, the theatre pieces more so; she was great in Aalst as mother who had killed her children, as the mother saw it, out of compassion; and her performance in Pamela Carter’s What We Know, again at The Traverse in February 2000 was acting as I’d never seen it before. I had to go a second time to make sure of what I’d seen her do.
I’m glad all the hard work has paid off and she now gets parts in the likes of Prometheus and Game of Thrones, which I’m sure will pay the bills and allow us to watch her wonderful acting in lower budget productions like For Those In Peril.
She was present at the Q&A after this screening and was as generous as ever in her praise for the director and George MacKay’s portrayal of Aaron. I’ve seen this generosity before; after the second performance of What We Know I saw, there was a Q&A with the cast and writer and I asked Dickie to sign my copy of the souvenir script. She did and then passed it to the other members of the cast for signing. Marlon Brando (of whom Dickie’s style is often reminiscent) described an actor as “a guy who, when you ain’t talking about him, ain’t listening;” this was quite different.
So; a wonderful actor who has also scaled the pinnacle of achievement which is appearing in Still Game. As she is normally cast as downtrodden, bereft, sad women, I’ve played a game in my head for years that I’d love to see her in a rom-com (I’d even invented one call My Goofy Girlfriend.)
That indeed came to pass the night after I saw For Those In Peril, when the EIFF closing gala featured Not Another Happy Ending.
This was pretty much a vehicle for Karen Gillan. Kate Dickie was onscreen for about seven minutes in total and was fine, although it did seem like a NAR (No Acting Required) part. Sadly, this was about the best part of the film.