Dir: Hattie Dalton. UK. 2010. 92mins
Hattie Dalton’s debut feature film, which closes this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, is a nicely crafted drama that ticks a few too many cliché boxes to totally convince, and despite a series of fine performances and impressive locations it feels more of a TV movie than a film likely to breakout theatrically.
Hattie Dalton certainly displays a great deal of talent and directs with a sure hand.
Where the film does succeed is offering a fine platform for four talented young British actors – Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Burke, JJ Feild and newcomer Adam Robertson – as the group of lifetime friends who head off on an ill-advised trip to West Wales.
James (Cumberbatch) is seriously ill and invites his three best pals on a rambling road trip to remote but beautiful Barafundle Bay. Part of the journey is by car, but the majority of the long slog involves them hiking, camping and often pushing the increasingly weakened James in a contraption that is part wheelchair and part storage cart.
Naturally their journey involves many tests of their friendship - oddball encounters, practical difficulties, emotional revelations etc – as they gradually make their way to the blissfully empty and serene beach. But then such illness/road trip movies do tend to usually involve such trials and tribulations…especially when this group of modern men are separated from their mobiles, laptops and comforts of home, with the comedy camping scenes working extremely well.
The friendships between the four men are nicely drawn, with Vaughan Sivell’s script adroitly blending humour and pathos, though as the film draws on more emphasis is put on the relationship between James and Miles (JJ Field), a late arrival to the outing and a man carrying a few secrets of his own.
Highlights include an all-too brief cameo by young Eros Vlahos (who featured memorably in Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang) as a kid wearing angel wings who steals Miles’s watch from a pub toilet) and Hugh Bonneville (who was in Hattie Dalton’s short film One Of Those Days) as a rambling beachcomber, though an ill-judged fight-scene at a remote pub doesn’t really suit the film.
Hattie Dalton (who won a BAFTA in 2005 for her short The Banker) certainly displays a great deal of talent and directs with a sure hand, making most of the breathtaking Pembrokeshire locations, and drawing out restrained and moving performances from the four leads. Frustratingly the story just feels oh-so familiar, and while poignant and funny on occasions is just never memorable.
Production companies: Matador Pictures, Film Agency for Wales, BBC Wales, Western Edge Pictures, Memory Box Films
International sales: Independent Film Company, www.independentfilmcompany.com
Producers: Kelly Broad, Vaughan Sivell
Executive producers: Margaret Matheson, Nigel Thomas, Pauline Burt, Kate Crowther, Charlotte Wells, Paul Higgins
Screenplay: Vaughan Sivell
Cinematography: Carlos Catalan
Production designer: Richard Campling
Music: Stephen Hilton
Main cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Burke, JJ Feild, Adam Robertson, Hugh Bonneville, Eros Vlahos