Paul Wright / UK / 2013 / 92 mins
Mental illness is a tricky issue to tackle in film if you wish to portray it sensitively and effectively. In recent years Silver Linings Playbook and We Need to Talk About Kevin have unearthed serious issues, grabbed the attention of mainstream Hollywood cinema and gotten audiences to talk about mental disease. Writer and director Paul Wright’s feature debut, For Those in Peril, is a raw and muted look into mental trauma, not only from the eyes of the sufferer but from those in the wider community too.
Awkward outsider Aaron (George MacKay) is a lone survivor of a tragic boating accident which claimed the souls of five others, including his older and much revered brother. As he returns home, his hold over his own grief and guilt soon begins to crumble as the insular community he belongs to begin to shun him.
Wright’s film is very much a character drama, exploring the emotional heartache and psychological trauma of Aaron. Mackay’s performance has a tragic beauty surrounding it as the young man reverts to childlike behaviour and becomes enraptured by fairytale stories of sea monsters in his search for answers surrounding the accident. Kate Dickie provides an emotional anchor existing as the only buoy in Aaron’s tempestuous world, torn between grieving for his first born son and fighting to support Aaron against all odds. Home footage, folk lore and sound come together in a compelling narrative, teasing the audience with possibilities and eventually allowing them to draw their own conclusions.
The real menace within this film is its visuals. From ragged dream flashbacks to spanning shots of the stormy sea, Wright has successfully managed to represent how this tiny community is surrounded by a huge thundering evil. For Those in Peril is a film which haunts its audience, its understated beauty and impending tragedy expose the entrapment of social exclusion and mental illness allowing its audience to witness not only the physical but the mental effects of a life so hinged on nature.