Reviewed by: David Stanners

A Danish hitchhiker (Anders Berthelsen) arrives in Scotland looking for work. Picked up by the local doctor (Samantha Bond), he's taken to the Black's farm. Upon arrival, he meets Francis Black (Peter Mullan), a heavy drinking blind man, who lives with his long suffering mother (Phyllida Law) and mismatched wife Rachel (Jodhi May) in an dilapidated old farm house.

Mike, the Dane, reluctantly accepts an offer of board and a job, which amounts to filling a mysterious swamp pool with Francis's scrap machinery. The other main character is Rachel. Deferent, yet desperate for change, her eyes meet Mike's in a come-and-get-me-but-beware kind of way. Francis's senses are razor sharp and sniffing a rat he sets the tone early on. Unflinching and resolute in his promises, he swears he'll kill anyone who tries to take Rachel away from him.

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Tensions become fraught as Mike and Rachel draw closer together, sending Francis's suspicions into new orbits. When a fatal catastrophe occurs between Francis and Mike, a possible murder investigation is left hanging in mid air. As Mike's character slowly unfolds, we learn of his police record and ties to a murder in Denmark, all of which is revealed in a tumultuous climax.

Writer/director Eleanor Yule has made an attempt at a highly emotional thriller, but all credibility and tension, manifested during the bulk of the film, is completely robbed at the final hurdle by a ludicrous ending. Mullan and, particularly, May are convincing, doing their very best in something that fails in direction and script. Berthelsen never seems at home as the hitchhiker and is at times hammy. While integral to the denouement, Bond's role lacks substance and is really just a tag on.

Admittedly shot on one of Scottish Screen's shoestring budgets, the driech shadowy images captured on a high definition video look too caricatured. On the strength of this summer, it's hard to believe the sun ever shines in Scotland, but it's not always death and gloom, as depicted by cinematographer Jerry Kelly.

This is almost a passable thriller, but with such a contrived ending slapped on like a big lump of soggy dough, it falls from a medium-sized Glasgow tenement into a bottomless mud pool and sinks.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2004
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A Danish backpacker faces sinister consequences after his work on a rundown farm leads to romance.
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Director: Eleanor Yule

Writer: Eleanor Yule

Starring: Peter Mullan, Jodhi May, Anders W. Berthelsen, Samantha Bond, Phyllida Law

Year: 2003

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


EIFF 2004

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