Eye For Film >> Movies >> Rob And Valentyna In Scotland (2010) Film Review
Rob And Valentyna In Scotland
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
Rob left a lucrative career to volunteer abroad, teaching English in the Ukraine. Valentyna is his cousin, part of a family he never knew he had. When they go on holiday together, neither quite expects what happens.
Eric Lynne's film is beautifully shot, a cycling tour of the islands making tremendous use of the Scottish landscapes. Lynne directs, assisted in writing duties by Robert Chester Smith, who is also Rob. That doubling up and some of that confusion is essential to the film.
Editor Sam Sneade also narrates, and his tones bookend the story. It's small, almost a two-hander, but saved from feeling stagey by clever use of locations and backgrounds. It's not quite the efficiency of The Red Machine, but it still manages to do a lot in a small space. Laura Main's brief appearance as a waitress who knows about whisky leads to the film's climactic moment, and while that too is brief, its aftermath is more significant.
As Rob, Chester Smith is charming, if somewhat out of his depth with his family and on holiday. His transformation from management consultant to peace corps member is as smooth as one might expect, but it's Kimi Reichenberg's turn as Valentyna that steals the show. Around her he's gauche, awkward, uncomfortable, and we feel it. Sneade's narration lends it the feel of The Hitchhiker's Guide in places, there's the same sense of a fish out of water to it. With two scriptwriters credited it's impossible to say who's responsible for what, but the banter is believable, the cultural differences feel right.
As a portrayal of a turning point in a relationship, one of those stories that aren't told in families, Rob And Valentyna In Scotland feels genuine, even heartfelt. Its only real weakness is contextual - while it does a lot to explain how the pair came to be in these circumstances, it doesn't quite do enough to justify Rob. Some of that is the constraint of space, but given the flashbacks to Rob's previous career there was certainly scope. It's a small concern, but in a tale of opportunity and circumstance it's one that feels missed. Given the quality of many short films, it is sad that Rob And Valentyna feels a little formulaic, and while it develops in a way that is perhaps not uncommon, it's also somewhat unsurprising. Certainly it's far from the pedestrian happy endings of romantic comedy, and while it does feel a little odd to suggest that its divergence from the norm is a little humdrum, this is still the case.
Scotland is given the chance to shine by Ulf Brants' photography. Even with two strong performances, it's that background splendour that gives the smaller human drama of the film the chance to captivate - unfortunately, it doesn't quite manage to do so.Reviewed on: 04 Aug 2010
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