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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

On a Clear Day (review)

Here’s a movie about death, swimming, potatoes, estranged family, secret bus drivers, and more swimming. It’s Scottish, set in Glasgow, which means it’s brutally, bleaky funny, in a way that makes you want to cry more than laugh. It is, in a word, brilliant. When shipbuilder Frank Redmond (Peter Mullan: Criminal) is laid off from the job that has kept him busy his entire adult life, he’s at a loss for how to fill his days, until he hits on the notion of swimming the English Channel. Because it’s there, maybe… or perhaps because he has some horrific memories of something that happened in the water years ago that he can’t get past, and needs to, even if he doesn’t realize it. So he’s off to train in secret — secret from his wife, Joan (Brenda Blethyn: Beyond the Sea), that is, though she’s up to something herself (hint: it involves a bus), not secret from his unlikely gang of mates, including chip-shop owner Chan (Benedict Wong: Code 46) and goofball Danny (Billy Boyd: Seed of Chucky), who accidentally thwart Frank as often as they deliberately support him. It’s a tossup who actually steals the film: It could be either Chan or Boyd, who slowly reveal the surprising depths of their characters. Or it could be Blethyn, who wraps the movie in a cosy, comfortable, maternal hug that reassures you that it will weather its risk-taking with aplomb. Or maybe it’s Jamie Sives as Frank and Joan’s son, the untraditional masculinity of whom challenges Frank to distraction. But it’s probably Mullan, who nurtures a salvaging warmth from Frank’s rocky distance.

read my interview with director Gaby Dellal at Film & Video


MPAA: rated PG-13 for some language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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