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Glasgow Film Festival 2021: Day 2

Day two of the Glasgow Film Festival turned out to be a real mixed bag. Whilst I have already seen and reviewed The Mauritanian on this site, I will still be sharing a clip of my review here to keep all the festival coverage consistent. We also have two other films that premiered at GFF last night to talk about, so here are my reviews of the Day 2 coverage.

There is an old, beige building in the background. In front is a Turkish man, positioned at the left and staring off to the right sternly. He has long black hair, a beard and is wearing a grey jacket.

In the Shadows

Director: Erdem Tepegöz
Writer: Erdem Tepegöz
Starring: Numan Acar, Emrullah Çakay, Vedat Erincin

Synopsis: It is near future story in Anatolia. There is no indication of time and place, an post-apocalyptic world that ruled over by primitive technology. Zait, a loyal mine worker who works for a mine factory which is managed by unknowns, declares war against the factory.

This film has an interesting concept, stripping away the dystopian genre in a film that is simple in its filmmaking for the style. The world-building feels real with this film, unlike many other dystopian tales that I have seen in the past. There are few distractions as the story focuses completely on the relationships between the workers, particularly with our lead played by Numan Acar. It’s a style choice that I think works for this particular story and what the director wants us to focus on.

The lead performance of Zait by Acar is solid as he is the one solely carrying this film. However, this film suffers from a script that is just hard to fully engage with. The story focuses on Zait declaring war against the factory that he works at, but the politics of it never feels truly realised. With the stripped-back setting, it is important that the script stands out and makes an impact, but it just fails to engage with the strong concept it has.

Unfortunately, writing this review a couple of days after seeing the film, it is clear that the film was just forgettable. Whilst it has bold ideas and a solid lead performance, it is a lack of potential for what it could have been. There is plenty to admire with the craft of the film and the bold choices in terms of the production design and twisting the dystopian genre, but I left the film feeling cold and just wish there was more to offer.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
An asian woman, positioned on the right hand side, is sat on a subway ride. The woman has black hair, a beige long jacket and is holding a handbag.

Spring Tide

Director: Yang Lina
Writer: Yang Lina
Starring: Hao Lei, Elaine Jin, Shang-Ho Huang

Synopsis: Guo Jianbo is a journalist specializing in social news. She lives together with her mother and daughter. Her mother helps out in the local community after retirement. The family ties that bind the three together and the nature of the times in which they each grew up have seeped into their veins like a deadly poison. ×

Spring Tide is a quiet family drama that is beautiful to watch unfold, managing to make these relationships between each member work. The film asks us to be patient with the development as there is little exposition to set us up with. It can be overwhelming to begin, trying to establish every character and their relationships, but this comes together naturally throughout the film in a way that is engaging.

What is special about the film is how simple the story is. It does not need any form of fantasy or dark storyline to get going, instead focusing on the smaller moments within the family. The relationship is so heavily established and it is easy to connect with these characters, especially with how sweet and authentic the dynamic feels.

There is nothing too revolutionary with this film that will leave you blown away. It doesn’t have this extra weight to the story that will make you drawn to revisit it or to leave a lasting impact. However, it is instead a raw and honest look at this family and their lives, something that is incredibly endearing to watch and incredibly well done. It is not one that I am captivated to go back to in the near future, but it is still worth a recommendation.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Image Description: A white woman stands, holding open a door and looking stern at the camera. The woman has grey hair, a black-and-grey dress and a blue scarf.

The Mauritanian

I was not familiar with Tahar Rahim before this film, but he is someone I will for sure be keeping my eyes on from now on. In this film filled with huge Hollywood stars, he gives the best performance of them all as Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the detainee at Guantanamo Bay. It can be easy just to point out his performance in the sequences where he is tortured to put through immense pressure, but it is the smaller moments where he also shines in a subtle manner. From moments of hearing about his family back at home, to even just learning to speak English, these small moments help flesh out his role and his performance.

The editing of this story could have easily fallen flat as it takes the approach of going into the past with Slahi’s previous arrests and his treatment at Guantanamo Bay, then jumping into the present with the defence and prosecution making their cases and discoveries. However, this way of storytelling worked for this film for a number of reasons. With the change of ratio when in the past, it makes it distinctive where the film is currently set and adds a bit of authenticity to the look of the film. Not only that, but the audience gets to see what happened at Guantanamo Bay at the same time that the prosecution and the defence learn about it. This helps create a real narrative between both the past and the present, making these scenes feel necessary.

There is always a story to tell with wrongly-accused inmates, and even then I was fully captivated by this one more than many others in the past few years. With as strong a lead as Tahar Rahim is and the clever editing and pacing, this is a film that I hope gets more discussion as reviews drop and more people get a chance to check it out. I know I will be championing it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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