The DVD Pile
This is an indie film that somehow got put in the horror section at my local HMV and after watching it I am not sure that decision is correct as it is more of drama with elements of folklore and magic. It takes its title from the old hymn that’s popular especially in fishing communities for obvious reasons. There are parts that have documentary quality with camcorder footage mixed with interviews with villagers the soundtrack that help lend authenticity to the drama. It has style that reminds me of that type TV drama that verges on reality TV with long awkward silences that increase the viewer’s sense of voyeurism.
Aaron (George MacKay) is a young man living in a small village on the coast of Scotland and he’s the sole survivor of a fishing boat accident at sea that took the lives of his older brother Michael (Jordan Young) and five other local men. The grief at the loss is the prevailing feeling in the small village and his presence is like a living ghost, reminding people of those they have lost. He has no memory of what happened out there which means the need for answers goes unsatisfied and some people blame Aaron for the deaths.
Aaron seems obsessed with the notion that just because they are missing it doesn’t mean they are dead and he believes his brother Michael is still alive out there with the others. He seems to seriously believe the old stories his mother told him when he was a child about the devil living in the sea in the form of a monstrous fish that cursed the village. This story includes a young boy who goes out to see to kill the fish and rescue all his loved ones from its giant belly. The parallel with Aaron is hard to miss.
Aaron was an outsider before the tragedy, not really interested in rough and tumble play with other boys his age but it seemed that he was tolerated because his brother was much more normal, popular and physically capable. With Michael gone there is open contempt for Aaron from the youths of the village who enjoy telling him the most lurid gossip about him.
While his mother Cathy (Kate Dickie) tries to be supportive all the time she can’t understand what he’s going through. Aaron confides in Jane (Nichola Burley), his brother’s fiancé and they start growing close but her father (Michael Smiley) is not happy about it. Jane realises she’s using Aaron to cling on to George and decides to stop seeing him. This leads to a confrontation between Aaron and Jane’s father and Aaron realising he is on his own.
This is good solid film dealing with the way a community deals with loss and we see them focus their grief and anger on Aaron. His method of coping is to turn to the stories of his childhood, the myths with happy endings that offer him hope. He was happy staying in background while his brother got the limelight but now has to cope with being the centre of somewhat hostile attention on top of his own sense of loss. The young actor playing Aaron really has to carry the whole film and I think he did great job and he did so well with the accent that I didn’t even suspect he wasn’t Scottish. The supporting cast are all excellent too. It is not a light film and it has very downbeat feel to it so it’s not really a fun film for an easy watch but I think it still worth a look even if just for the scenery.