Skeletons

EIFF Review for The Edinburgh Reporter

Like all the best films, Nick Whitfield’s directorial debut Skeletons features an unlikely duo: in this case an eccentric Danish single mother and a gently threatening man in a flat cap known as The Colonel.

As the blurb will tell you, this is the tale of two emotional exorcists who traipse around Derbyshire removing guilty secrets from people’s lives.  Exorcising the metaphorical skeletons in their closets, you might say.  And watching them do so is a lovely experience.

EIFF literature points to the obvious comedy of their physical differences.  Bennett (Andrew Buckley) is very tall with an untidy mop of red hair whilst Davis (Ed Gaughan) is short and dark with a well-clipped moustache.  Oh ho ho, One is big and one is small, that’ll have folk rolling in the aisles.

Frankly, to concentrate on the opposite sizes belies the fact that they have brilliant chemistry and really work well together.  This is particularly evident during arguments about moral ambiguity.

In terms of characterization, Bennett is the gentle giant, who worries about how clients will cope with the aftermath of hearing dark secrets about their partners.  Davis, meanwhile, professes not to care.  But on an assignment that could lead to promotion he begins to change his tune, for a variety of reasons both comic and sad.

One of the most refreshing things about the film is its treatment of the supernatural.  You don’t physically see any ghosts or ghouls, so the aura of magic is created purely by good camera work and direction.  Half the time Bennett and Davis are either doubting their ability to do the job, bickering about the other’s ability to do the job, or discussing the fact that the clients probably don’t really believe they can do the job.  This makes a welcome change to expensive, time-consuming special effects.

I’m sure that other reviews of this film will be jam packed with adjectives like ‘quirky’ and ‘charming’, and I would hesitate to overuse such phrases… if it weren’t for the fact that Skeletons is quirky and charming.  And worth it just for the mad, staring eyes of Jason Isaacs.

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