Edinburgh Film Festival: Balance, Not Symmetry

I really wanted to love this film. The director seems like quite the sweetheart, and it was clearly a deeply personal journey for him. The cast includes some incredible people I adore to see on screen. Biffy Clyro make sick music and of course I’m delighted to hear more of it. Unfortunately, so much of this movie had me rolling my eyes.

Image of Jamie Adams and some cast introducing the film at the Festival theatre

I enjoyed parts of Balance, not symmetry – honestly I really did. There were bits of it that were nice, and it did have touching and real moments. I thought many of the actors were pretty excellent – Freya Mavor was wasted though. Despite being perfectly nice, this movie isn’t one I would ever fully enjoy. The message of the movie is so outrageously pretentious it made me want to bang my head against a wall. The film really is deeply personal to Jamie Adams, but it’s so personal that I don’t think he was able to view it objectively at all. 

By the close of the film my take on the messaging was that art exists as a cathartic process for artists, and nothing more. The movie is simply trying to justify its own existence throughout. This isn’t entirely untrue, but it sure demeans the power of art. I can’t help but feel like the Director knew it was going to be a poor film, so wanted to make it clear that he doesn’t care because it’s just him processing his emotions.

image of movie ticket gin and tonic and salted caramel ice cream

Art is in part for the artist, I will accept that. It is an incredibly productive tool for addressing the experiences, emotions, and journey of an artist. However, part of that power is how the human experience will resonate with the audience. The audience is important, and connecting with an audience through your work is important, as much as this film doesn’t want it to be. The story Jamie Adams wants to share is just too close to him to make it something the audience can share in.

This a perfectly nice movie with nice moments. The music is good, though an awkward fit at times (especially given it was written for the project). The cast is lovely, though their skills don’t always rise to the improvisation challenge. It’s an interesting exploration of the art world but one which ultimately rests at a boring conclusion. There are just too many ‘buts’. Unfortunately this movie is ultimately forgettable.

Edinburgh Film Festival: Yesterday

If you’re looking for a nice and fun film that you will leave feeling content, Yesterday is a good bet. This would be your cookie cutter rom com were it not for the core premise: a man bringing the music of The Beatles to a world where he’s the only person who remembers them. There are very few people across the globe who wouldn’t be charmed by a story that starts there, and this movie is full of charm.

The leads are impossible not to love; one played by Himesh Patel, whom Danny Boyle quite rightly said had a certain soulfulness in him that made him a perfect choice, and Lily James, who is Lily James and therefore impossible not to love. There’s lots of opportunities for these characters to do something unlikeable in the film, but it never happens. Any wrong step they make feels entirely forgivable. All their decisions are full of heart and true to the characters and their story. The level of nice-ness of some characters is almost cartoonish at some points, so it’s quite impressive that they managed to maintain any conflict.

The story itself poses lots of moral questions as well as lots of just… questions. With The Beatles having such a colossal impact on the world, the filmmakers basically had free reign on choosing the consequences. They were relatively restrained, which works in the films favour as very little of the story they’ve chosen to tell is about The Beatles. Some of the most powerful moments in the movie are though. Bits that truly touch your heart do so because of the true passion so many of us share for not just the music of The Beatles, but the people themselves. I don’t want to share my favourite bit of the film here, because it would spoil a lot of the tension, but it involved the recognition of how much the music is loved, and how much it is valued.

Honestly, this movie is a fairly cliche tale of the sudden discovery of fame throwing the moral code and relationships of someone into chaos. I’m willing to admit that if it weren’t for my investment in The Beatles it might not feel special at all. But it does feel special, and it never does a disservice to The Beatles. It’s just a nice story, that will leave you smiling.

Edinburgh Film Festival: Boyz in the Wood

I was left a little flat after the Edinburgh Film Festival Opening Gala last year, so I wasn’t entirely optimistic for this year. I was excited by the Scottish-ness of the film, and intrigued by the comedy horror premise, but totally unprepared for what a brilliant time I was going to have watching it.

The obvious influences in the film are Edgar Wright and Taika Waititi: two of my favourites certainly, but also adored globally. The humour, particularly the more gory moments, blatantly echoed the cornetto trilogy. The story and certain characters felt quite directly inspired by Hunt for the Wilderpeople – though one incident of foreshadowing in the story felt so Edgar Wright that I knew exactly what was happening in that moment and proceeded to look out for what it had been hinting at.

Despite the heavy influences Boyz in the Wood took on a whole life of its own. It didn’t feel the need to recycle any jokes, it creates all its own absolutely wild humour out of the situations it threw its characters in too. Despite the complete absurdity of the film, all the characters felt somehow believable. The four core characters are no doubt pretty close to some actual Scottish schoolboys out there.

Boyz in the Wood does not shy away from social commentary. In fact, the bizarre nature of the film perhaps let it get away with being even more brash with some of this than another kind of movie would be able to get away with. The metaphor was not far beneath the surface, and many of the best jokes were deeply unsubtle. There was one moment towards the end where I shifted uncomfortably in my seat a little, thinking the point was being driven home a little too hard, but what followed quickly broke that discomfort.

I would be interested to know a bit more about Ninian Doff’s decision making behind the Scottishness of it all as well. Going up against the tweed-clad villains who were not so Scottish couldn’t help but stir a little Scottish patriotism in me.

The entire audience could not stop laughing throughout – I don’t think I have ever been part of an audience that has so clearly enjoyed a film together. It might not be the kind of humour that would appeal to everyone, but there was such a range of people in that audience, and I didn’t see one person who looked anything less than delighted afterward.