The Edinburgh International Film Festival has forever prided itself as a festival of discovery, a platform for new filmmaking talent to present their works to audiences, critics and fellow filmmakers alike in the hope of receiving recognition. If there’s one person who deserves credit this year, then it’s Paul Wright, whose feature debut For Those In Peril is a bold and innovative poetic fable that, through a rich textual narrative, astounds in its emotional resonance.
Awkward outsider Aaron (George Mckay) is the sole survivor of a freak fishing accident that claimed the lives of four others, including his protective older brother Michael (Jordan Young). Unable to escape the anguish, Aaron clings to the hope that Michael is still alive, devising methods to save him from what he calls “the devil in the ocean”. But, with the whole community against him, and his state-of-mind worsening by the minute, it becomes almost impossible for Aaron to escape his metaphorical shackles.
Wright’s feature debut is a rich and commanding coming-of-age drama that uses a lyrical, expressionistic style to get inside Aaron’s mindset and mirror his increasing fragility, both mentally and physically, as his whole self is slowly consumed by the grief of losing such a caring brother and the guilt of being the only one to survive. The slow pace in which the film unravels works well to engross the audience and ensure they experience Aaron’s affliction concurrently.
The blurring between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy is strengthened further by Wright’s reliance on imagery and sound to guide the narrative. He uses various visual formats, contradictory news bites and reflective childhood folklore to switch between past and present, ensuring the film is a constant immersive, unrestricted experience from which audiences are welcomed, never forced, to draw their own conclusions.
It’s slick, too. At a mere 93 minutes, For Those In Peril never outstays its welcome. And, even at those times when Wright’s narrative could be seen as being too simplistic or too intangible for its own good, it’s so well executed, performed (Mckay stuns with a beautifully understated, emotive performance, while Kate Dickie is at her all time best) and thought-out for that to be of any great detriment to what has been achieved elsewhere. For Those In Peril may not be perfect, but for a feature debut, it comes incredibly close.