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Glasgow Film Festival 2021: Day 3

Another day of festivals done and another day of varying success for the films that I watched. There are three films for me to review today, so I will not wait any longer. Here is my coverage for day 3 of the 2021 Glasgow Film Festival.

Image Description: A white room is in the background with a beige lamp. In the foreground is an old white woman with short curly brown hair and wearing a dark purple hoodie. She is cuddling a grey-and-white small dog.

Murmur

Director: Heather Young
Writer: Heather Young
Starring: Shan MacDonald, Andria Edwards

Synopsis: Donna has recently been convicted of “Driving While Impaired” and is ordered to perform community service at the local animal shelter. When an elderly dog is scheduled to be euthanized, Donna decides to take the dog home and quickly realizes his companionship can ease her loneliness. In a futile attempt to fill the emptiness she feels, Donna begins to take home more and more animals and she is soon in over her head.

This is the first new watch from the Glasgow Film Festival for me that really got my attention. Telling a simple story, the film focuses on a “Driving While Impaired” convict as she volunteers at a dog shelter. Immediately, it is easy to connect with Donna as she volunteers, being impacted by the dogs that are away to be euthanised. It tugs an emotional heart string in all of us as we see why Donna makes the decision to take them home.

The leading performance by first-time actress Shan MacDonald is heart-breaking to watch as the role feels raw and honest. It is not over-dramatised, focusing on the simple yet relatable emotions that we all go through with the idea of potential grief and helplessness. It is clear that she wants to grow as a person and she wants to improve, and it is rewarding to see that journey go on, even if it is not everything that is typically done in a film like this.

The film introduces the idea of Donna trying to get back in contact with her family, particularly her daughter, after what she was punished for. Whilst I am glad this was addressed in the film and gave a reason for Donna to be isolated, I do wish the film took this concept and stretched it further. However, for what is a feature debut from director Heather Young, I am impressed with how this film turned out and the impact it left on me.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Image Description: There are four guys in the shot. At the very back is a burred out white man, who appears to be old and is wearing an orange jacket. In front of him, still blurred, is a white man with curly grey hair and is wearing a brown jacket, staring directly at the camera. In front on the left is a white man in his 30s with curly brown hair, a beard, wearing glasses and has a green jacket. He is staring at a white man directly at front, with a shaved head, grey beard and wearing a khaki green jacket and grey jumper. He is staring at a gun, which is being held at him and is the focal point of the image.

Riders of Justice

Director: Anders Thomas Jensen
Writer: Anders Thomas Jensen
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Lars Brugmann

Synopsis: Markus, a deployed military man, has to go home to his teenage daughter, Mathilde, when his wife dies in a tragic train accident. It seems to be plain bad luck – but it turns out that it might have been a carefully orchestrated assassination, which his wife ended up being a random casualty of.

When this film was listed in the line-up for the Glasgow Film Festival, all it took was a still including Mads Mikkelsen to get me intrigued. I am happy to say that once again, Mikkelsen gives a wonderful performance here and is able to keep your attention for the entire runtime. His character has a lot to go through emotionally, and it is one of the toughest roles that Mikkelsen has taken on recently.

It is incredibly easy to become invested in the film from the beginning, as the opening of the film takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. It is effective as a set-up to get us immediately connected with the characters and to care about the journey that is about to take place. It also establishes a tone that is lighter than expected for a story like this, but the humour helps keep the film entertaining within the madness.

I do feel like the film restricts itself from ever reaching its full potential because of the lighter tone it takes. Whilst the opening is effective and impactful, it never reaches the same level again as the film is afraid to commit to a darker story. It did leave me wanting more by the end, but for what we ended up getting, there is certainly enough there to keep you entertained and have fun with another Mikkelsen leading role.

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Image Description: The entire landscape is in ruins and is tinted a navy blue colour. There are hills in the distance, but in the foreground are some buildings. One of the buildings is a column that is destroyed at the top, whilst the other column is in place, extending out at the top.

Undergods

Director: Chino Moya
Writer: Chino Moya
Starring: Johann Myers, Géza Röhrig, Michael Gould

Synopsis: An otherworldly journey through a Europe in decline – a collection of darkly humorous, fantasy tales about ill-fated characters and doomed fortune.

The team behind this film really nails the aesthetics of the world, creating a place that is so fascinating. The production design, whilst staying grounded, acts as a place for the narrative to be stretched as far as possible. This is also supported by an incredible score that runs throughout the film, helping set the tone and genre of the film. It is easy to get lost in the world.

However, the story itself is simply not compelling. The film takes a bold choice to not focus on one particular story, but several that interweave in this complex world. Unfortunately, the story leaves little to care about as none of the stories are impactful. The storylines are hard to care about, and that also comes from a lacking amount of character development to show any progression within the story.

This is a concept that has so much potential, as I really do appreciate the world that is presented. However, it ended up being really tough to watch the entire film as there was just nothing to grab onto narratively and to enjoy. I wish that the film took more risks and went bolder with its story, as that would have helped elevate the film to another level.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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