Our final visit to Glasgow Film Festival 2024 takes in a modern German fairy tale that’ stilly pretty grim(m), an uneasy melding of Nordic Noir and ghost story, and a jolting reminder that somehow David Duchovny is in his sixties. 

Nothing is given away easily in Milk Teeth (Sophia Bösch/ Germany/ 2024/ 97 mins), a bleak but beguiling fable that sits somewhere between Angela Carter, The Crucible, and Ingmar Bergman. In an isolated forest community, completely cut off from a world that may not exist anymore, a young woman called Skalde (Mathilde Bundschuh) has worked tirelessly to gain the trust and respect of the village, particularly the icy Pesolt (Ulrich Matthes). Not only is she a woman, and the community is run on rigidly patriarchal lines, but Skalde’s mother Edith (Susanne Wolff) is considered an outsider, despite having lived there for 19 years. Skalde’s position becomes threatened when she comes across a young girl (Viola Hinz) who may be a wolf in the guise of a child, and who may be responsible for the death of several animals in the village. Skalde has to decide between her loyalty and her instinct to protect the girl.

Sophia Bösch confidently handles the nebulous tone of a fairy tale with a grounded approach that builds a compelling and believable world, but leaves much to interpretation. What is clear is that Milk Teeth is a story about the need for belonging, and how that can calcify into a sense of insularity and xenophobia. The world presented here is an ambiguously dangerous one so the need for rules and hierarchy is not discounted, but it’s clear that those rules are also used to maintain personal authority. Aesthetically, the film is a treat with Aleksandra Medianikova‘s cinematography capturing both the verdancy and foreboding of the forest, both a comfort and a cage. This duality extends to the ending, which again may be a little vague for some tastes, but feels like the right choice for this almost lilting, oneiric tale. 4/5

Cold (Erlingur Thoroddsen/ Iceland/ 2023/ 98 mins) is much more clear cut. A mix of ghost story and Nordic Noir, Cold presents a dual narrative set 40 years apart as grieving husband Óðinn (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) is trying to pick up the piece of his wife’s suicide while investigating a cold case involving the historic murder of two boys at a now abandoned juvenile centre. Meanwhile his daughter Rún (Ólöf Halla Jóhannesdóttir) is acting up at school and is suffering from terrifying nightmares.

It’s an intriguing premise, and director Thoroddsen and co-writer Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (adapting her own novel) smoothly transition between the two timelines in a way that’s visually appealing. However, the mystery itself is rather leaden in the manner of those pulpy Harlan Coben adaptations on Netflix, and the amalgamation of the detective story with supernatural elements is far less deft than that of its twin narrative. Beyond that, it’s burdened by tropes from both aspects of its storytelling: alcoholism, dark pasts, family secrets, jump scares, abusive guardians, things lurking under beds. It’s all tied up neatly and one won’t feel completely short-changed, but it’s an almost painfully ordinary thriller. 2/5

It might be a surprise to any non-Americans, but Bucky F*cking Dent (David Duchovny/ USA/ 2023/ 105 mins) doesn’t refer to any of the main characters in David Duchovny’s wryly sharp comedy drama. Instead, it’s all about an estranged father and son relationship healed (partly) by baseball. In 1978 Ted (Logan Marshall-Green) discovers his father Marty (Duchovny) has less than a year to live with lung cancer. The pair haven’t spoken for years, but Ted is concerned that the only care Marty has been receiving is from nurse/ ‘death specialist’ Mariana (Stephanie Beatriz) so moves in with his father to help out. Noticing that Marty’s health seems linked to the performance of his beloved Boston Red Sox, he sets up faking a hot winning streak.

Baseball might not be a draw here, but most people will know someone who lives for a football team, and Duchovny, adapting his own book, taps into that obsessive passion with precision. The setup is a bit contrived, reminiscent of the German comedy Good Bye Lenin!, but the depiction of a late-life reconciliation between father and son is anything delight. Duchovny is delightfully crass as the vulgar but deceptively romantic Marty, who seems to have made peace with dying, but will be genuinely devastated by his team losing. Marshall-Green is fine at Ted, but is outshone by Duchovny and a sparky, sensitive turn from Beatriz as a confidant and figure of comfort for both men. The story is nothing that hasn’t been done before – and Duchovny knowingly overstates the importance of baseball, which has a storied filmic  and literary history as a metaphor for just about everything – but with a script polished to a crisp sheen, a splendid lead performance, and a willingness to lean just enough into sentiment. Just like its namesake was in 1978, Bucky F*cking Dent is a winner. 4/5

All films screened as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2024