Eye For Film >> Movies >> Vaarheim (2019) Film Review
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
On the far eastern outreaches of Scotland's islands is Shetland's Out Skerries, which actually lies closer to Norway than it does to Edinburgh's capital. The word "remote" is much-overused, given that it is all a matter of perspective. But, since the closure of the island's chief employer, a salmon farm, a few years ago and, shortly afterwards, its secondary school, the increased isolation of the dwindling population who remain is in little doubt.
It's here that Belgian-born documentarian Victor Ridley takes his camera for Vaarheim - the dialect word for "our house" - which had its world premiere at Visions du Reel this month. The house in question belongs to Julie Powis Arthur and her family, members of whom we meet in the warmth of their kitchen.
Thanks to the closures, however, the family has become increasingly displaced from the unit. Julie's husband works away on another island, while her eldest son catches the boat for school each week with the younger soon to follow, leaving Julie at home with their toddler Sofiana. Ridley quietly observes the family's interactions, showing the way that, though they try to treat the distance lightly, the worries it brings with it are as relentless as the waves crashing on the rocks below their home.
Ridley's camera feels like a part of the family unit, capturing the day to day conversations and emotions that come with this sort of clan - from Sofiana's joy at seeing her elder brother arrive back home to a heartbreaking moment where she plays with a mobile phone as her dad, from a distance, chats to her about his day. Ridley doesn't force things, allowing his film to become a quiet testimony to the social impact of tough economic times that take an often unseen toll on families and small communities like this.
Vaarheim is available to watch for free on Festival Scope until April 28Reviewed on: 24 Apr 2019