Jun 122013

The sole survivor of a fishing accident which took the life of five young men (including the survivor’s only brother) struggles to deal with both the grief and finality of death and the attitude of the village-folk who don’t understand why he walks among them, while others are dead. Review of Scottish director Paul Wright’s début feature film, For Those in Peril after the jump.

Aaron (George Mackay) should feel like the luckiest man alive. A freak accident took five young men away, including his older brother (Michael, played by Jordan Young), but he survived. However, he is plagued by guilt, by sadness and by a lingering hope, or belief that his brother is still alive. Unable to let go of this, he hears Michael’s voice calling for him from the sea, from the places they hid as children, from the dark depths of death. Aaron is obsessed with finding his brother and bringing him back.

We learn that even before the accident, Aaron was an outcast. However, Michael, his popular, spirited older brother protected him, and made sure he was included. Without Michael around to take his side, Aaron is ostracised by the community. They believe that he shouldn’t have come back from the sea, and that he is bad luck. It is implied that they suspect that his inexperience had something to do with the tragedy. No one knows what happened out there, and Aaron claims he can’t remember. At a time when Aaron is suffering perhaps more than anyone else, he is almost without support. Only his mother (played by Kate Dickie) and his brother’s girlfriend (played by Nichola Burley) give him the time of day, but even they refuse to support his search for his brother. He’s gone they claim, let him go and move on.

Grief is a complicated process, unique to each person and each loss. Writer-director Paul Wright has done a fantastic job at portraying the multiple layers of one very complicated young man’s grief. Aaron’s mind is a maze of confused feelings and thoughts. What is real and what is not is not clear to Aaron, and therefore also to the audience. George Mackay gives an extraordinary performance as the troubled young man. He deftly navigates the line between fantasy and reality, sadness and madness, and absolute pain. The nightmares and flashbacks are mixed in with the present day, creating a visceral story with immense depth. Through the use of different visual techniques, Wright has woven a rich tapestry of fears, dreams and death. His experiment layering different audio and visual styles reminded me of the late Chris Marker’s films – a sensory experience as well as an emotional one.

The rugged location of the sea-side village lends itself way to the story and the haunting myths of the ocean that are woven throughout. Writer-director Paul Wright stated that the myths in the film were based on similar myths told in similar villages, where life revolves around the ocean, and the ocean isn’t always kind. For Those in Peril is an incredibly accomplished feature film début. Paul Wright is certainly a filmmaker to keep an eye on.


By Sam McCosh

The Facts

Director: Paul Wright
Writer(s): Paul Wright
Starring: George MacKay, Kate Dickie, Nichola Burley, Michael Smiley