"A humanist movie providing a unique perspective on conflict."
How difficult could it be to find some rope? Well, with a war winding down around them, a force of international peacekeepers run by bureaucracy, and numerous local tensions that they are not privy to – surprisingly hard for a crew of water sanitation aid workers. As veteran aid worker Mambru (Benicio Del Toro) and his crew, attempt to remove a corpse from a well, the lack of one simple piece of equipment sets them off on a hunt through the war ravaged Bosnian countryside.
A Perfect Day shows us a side of war we rarely see, that of non-combatants caught in its wake. We’ve seen the tale of soldiers, we’ve seen (to a lesser) the tale of civilians trapped behind the lines, but we almost never see the story of those that are there by choice. It grants a unique perspective on the world and the events that are ongoing, as they try to continue vital work in a place ruled by chaos.
There is a very gentle sense of gallows humour about A Perfect Day. It forms the core of a resignation, an acceptance of the surreal conditions and the fact that they can do nothing against it. All they can do is to tinker around the edges and to help save what they can. All of which sounds grim, but is far from that. Set against forces that are beyond their control (conflict, bureaucracy, sheer random happenstance) the team still keeps on doggedly pursuing options, and maintain their sanity by joking about the result. It is a wonderfully human reaction, and A Perfect Day celebrates this determination against a background of horrors.
In this regard, a lot is reliant on the chemistry of the cadre of actors. Del Toro and Robbins form the core of this but play well off the younger cast. Del Toro’s Mambru is probably the most experienced and acts as a rather laid back guide to the war-zone, helping the audience navigate the environment. It is his emotional journey that forms the basis of the story, as much as the quest for rope does. In turn he is mentor, boss, friend, college and guardian, but is struggling with keeping a life outside of the conflict. By comparison Robbin’s B provides pure entertainment value, as someone that has completely given up on a life outside a conflict zone. His brand of burnt out crazy makes sense in the environment he is in, as his irrationality just seems par for the course. Del Toro and Robbin’s bounce well off each other, forming a natural banter. Melanie Thierry’s naive optimist, Olga Kurylenko’s jaded bureaucrat and Fedja Stukan’s deadpan interpreter round out the crew.
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A humanist movie providing a unique perspective on conflict. What should be a grim film instead is thought-provoking, sympathetic and wryly funny.
Originally published in X-Press Magazine