For Those In Peril review (DVD)

Despite starring in a scattering of prominent features, I only really became aware of George MacKay with his fantastic star turn on the massively enjoyable Sunshine on Leith. For Those in Peril sees him display another side of his acting ability, and one that without doubt can be regarded as one of the performances of the year.

MacKay plays Aaron, the lone survivor of a fishing accident that claimed the lives of five men including his older brother. Life since the accident for Aaron is a daily fight for survival, as in the wake of the tragedy much of the village blame him, and view him as a continual reminder of what they have lost. The structure of the movie doesn’t follow a strictly linear path, as woven in is home video footage of Michael, Aaron’s deceased brother, playfully engaging with his fiancée.

As Aaron wanders around the village, he gets probed by teenagers who ask “do you remember it?” or “what was it like?”. To them it’s just gossip and intrigue, but to Aaron you can sense just how broken his life is by staring into his haunted eyes. He stands at the beach in the dark, looking out to sea, convinced that his brother may one day appear and we hear fractured thoughts rambling through his head. Throughout this time is becomes apparent just how the village view him. Those they lost at sea are beautified and respected, but for Aaron he’s considered just a constant reminder of what they’ve lost. Even at the pub, the encounters that he has become a trial for him with relatives using him as a figure of blame. “My son said you were no good for that boat” states one grieving relative, while on his return home bloodied fish get posted through his letterbox.

The on camera dialogue in the film is sparse, giving way to the lense almost dancing around Aaron, moving continuously. We switch from soft focus to crisp focus as narration whispers the abstract poetry of loss. Kate Dickie as Aaron’s mother seems more accepting of her bereavement, while at the same time trying to juggle Aaron’s grief and emotional breakdown with her own mourning for her son. She appears in only a few scenes, but in those she is in she gives a brilliant performance.

I must admit I went into For Those in Peril cold, unaware of what to expect. By the time the film had finished it had had quite an emotional impact on me. It’s a stunningly crafted piece of work and represents Paul Wright’s debut full length feature. MacKay is brilliant in the lead role, but Wright’s role as director is a prominent force alongside the editor Michael Aaglund, and cinematographer Benjamin Kracun who have created a visually and aurally staggering picture.

EXTRAS None• For Those In Peril at Facebook

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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