Edinburgh Film Festival 2016

Posted on: 04 Jul 2016 by Philip Wyn Jones

Philip Wyn Jones' highlights from this year's festival.

Here’s wishing a Happy 70th Birthday to this prestigious film festival. From the extensive list of films I selected eight and here they are.

1: THE HOMECOMING (Bjorn Hlynur Haroldsson, Iceland, 95min). A family’s handsome son returns home with the news that he’s just about to get married and that his fiancé is pregnant. Why does his father seem so hostile and panic-stricken? We soon find out. This supremely watchable film is best described as a comedy with emotional depth. The actors are superb and the scenery is stunning.

2: THE LIBRARY SUICIDES (Euros Lyn, UK, 87min), This excellent Welsh-language mystery thriller – original title Y Llyfrgell – is set in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. A distinguished novelist has apparently committed suicide but her twin daughters, both played by Catrin Stewart, suspect murder and have a definite suspect in mind. The screenplay is based on a popular novel by Fflur Dafydd and has an excitingly unpredictable story line. This is a great cinematic debut for Euros Lyn who until now has specialised in TV drama.

3: MOON DOGS (Philip John, UK and Ireland, 89min, pictured). How’s this for an international production? Devised in Wales, with a Welsh producer and director, filmed in Scotland with a Scottish screenplay, and bankrolled by the Film Boards of Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The leading players are Tara Lee from Ireland, Christy O’Donnell from Scotland, and Jack Parry-Jones from Wales. The step-brothers and the girl they meet have little in common apart from their love of music and their journey from Shetland to Glasgow is far from straightforward. The three leads are excellent and the beautiful Scottish countryside co-stars in the film. I was fortunate to meet Tara, Christy and Jack later in the week and was delighted to discover that Jack, like me, is a Merthyr lad.

4: 2 NIGHTS TILL MORNING (Mikko Kuparinen, Finland and Lithuania, 84min). A Finnish man and a French woman, both in Lithuania on business, meet, have sex and find that they cannot return home because the airport is closed. They may be on the verge of a meaningful relationship but will their emotional ties back home prevent that? The two leads succeed in carrying the film which is pleasingly open-ended with a hint of optimism.

5: MOM & ME (Ken Wardrop, Ireland and USA, 76min). It’s alleged that Oklahoma is the most ‘manly’ state in the USA. Irish director Wardrop went there to film this documentary as a way of finding out what these ‘real men’ think of their mothers. To do so he uses the framework of a radio phone-in show but we are not subjected to a series of disembodied voices; we meet the men and their mothers in their homes and workplaces. There’s no shortage of humour in this film but there’s also plentiful heartfelt emotion.

6: HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY (Daniel Raim, USA, 94min). Married couple  Harold and Lillian Michelson played a key part in the history of Hollywood. Harold was a renowned designer of storyboards and a great favourite of Alfred Hitchcock who used his services for many of his films from To Catch a Thief to Topaz. This documentary pays special attention to his work on The Birds and Marnie. Lillian was a researcher, librarian and archivist. Generations of directors sought her help and advice, including Hitchcock when he was preparing The Birds. A fascinating film and also a very moving one when it discusses the couples’ family life.

7: THE CARER (Janos Edelenyi , UK and Hungary, 89min). Brian Cox portrays an old Shakespearian actor whose health has deteriorated to the extent that he needs round-the-clock nursing. A young Hungarian would-be actress (Coco Konig ) is employed to do the job. After a bumpy start they become great friends, he regains his confidence,she is guaranteed an acting career. Seen it all before? Yes. Cliched? Yes. Wall-to-wall chunks of Shakespeare tick the ‘culture’ box and a sprinkling of swear words make it daring but safe. Coco Konig gives an appealing performance but, for me at least, this was a profoundly irritating film.

8: IRREPLACEABLE (Thomas Lilti, France, 102min). In the same tradition as popular TV series set in rural communities – Dr Finlay’s Casebook comes to mind – this feature follows the trials and tribulations of two country doctors. The director was previously a doctor and is well aware of the problems that have to be faced. Characters and events are totally convincing and it’s a treat to see and enjoy a film which was intended, presumably, for the French domestic market.

Philip Wyn Jones


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