Stories, however they’re told, take us on a journey. They can be full of struggle, hardship, and general nasty bits, but once you’re in, you’re in for good. For Those in Peril, the highly accomplished debut from newcomer Paul Wright, arguably boasts two of them; the main narrative itself, and the child’s fable that acts as a metaphorical parallel. Except this isn’t really about one story, or two; it’s in the telling of them that’s important.

Aaron, a slight recluse and a bit of a dreamer, is trying to adjust to life back in his rural Scottish fishing town following a bizarre fishing accident where he is the only survivor. He and his mother Cathy (Kate Dickie) struggle with the aftermath; Aaron’s brother, Michael (Jordan Young), died in the disaster, and their fellow townsfolk regard his return to shore unharmed as unnatural, suspicious even. This creates a world of profound emotional turmoil for Aaron, who begins to search for increasingly questionable avenues in which he can avoid accepting his brother’s death, living in a vain hope that he might still be found alive.

Riddled with ‘home footage’ and bearing an articulate half-doc, half-fiction form, the reason For Those in Peril strikes such an impression is George MacKay’s performance as the damaged Aaron. A singular showcase of brooding intensity, a single glance of his eyes allude to psychological depths as unknown as the brine on which Aaron’s growing obsessions lie; MacKay charms effortlessly through his language, both verbal and body. By the time we realise he’s reached a point of considerable decline in his mental health, thanks to his growing certainty that his brother is still alive and trapped in the belly of a sea monster from a childhood tale his mother used to tell him, we still stand fully by him even though his efforts are ludicrous. Kate Dickie also provides a fantastic portrayal of a quiet woman in even quieter grief, while a far-too small supporting stint from the reliably acerbic Michael Smiley adds some riveting – if short-lived – tension.

There are some scenes in this phantasmagorical picture that are achingly human (in particular a bed-set scene between Aaron and Michael’s (now ex-)girlfriend, that plays like a realistic version of the ‘surrogate’ kiss moment from Ghost), while other moments submerge themselves in an ocean of flickery, half-dreamt moments of horror and despair that infiltrate the town’s reality in stunning ways. For Those in Peril swells with symbolic possibilities, yet rings true every step of the way in depicting a family torn asunder. Complemented by a true breakout role from MacKay, Paul Wright has accomplished what every great director does; putting his dreams on a screen. It’s beyond exciting to see what he dreams next.


For Those in Peril is released on DVD on March 3rd. Visit the film’s Facebook page for more information. There is also an event at the BFI on February 13th, with a Q&A with director Paul Wright and lead actor George MacKay.