* * 1/2
by Hector Mackenzie
THE word “intense” hardly covers the atmosphere conjured by director Scott Graham’s follow-up to 2012’s
You could have heard a pin drop as the final scene dissolved to black ahead of the closing credits at the Inverness Film Festival.
Named after her birthplace, Iona (Ruth Negga) returns to the island with her teenage son Bull (Ben Gallagher) to seek refuge from a violent crime in Glasgow.
The brooding atmosphere is built from the first minute, Iona’s distracted frown and Bull’s haunted gaze merely hinting at the past they’re trying to escape.
The unsettled mood is intensified by shots taken from the bobbing ferry carrying the mother and son towards what is clearly an unpredictable future – and one they are moving towards by necessity rather than choice.
The pair look on at the burning shell of a car on a single track road as they prepare to hoof it the rest of the way to the isolated house that will be home for the foreseeable future. What has happened? What are they running from? Fragments of flashback are used to hint at what has taken place, the viewer very much left to join the dots.
Iona finds her way to the home of Daniel (Douglas Henshall), father of Elizabeth (Michelle Duncan) who remains on the island and with whom Iona was brought up as a sister. Daniel may be a temporary refuge but clearly faces ghosts of his own. He and Iona have a past but quite what that might be emerges only gradually.
Indeed there are so many ghosts from the past floating around that you’re left wondering why on earth Iona would ever choose to go back there. The woman she regards as her sister of sorts is now married to a man who has carried a candle for Iona in the past. And they’re living in the house that Iona had hoped to return to. That’s got to be awkward.
The film’s main problem is the glacial pace at which it unfolds. Intense close-ups of the various distracted characters are so long and drawn out at times you feel like screaming: “Yes! I get it! He/she’s not happy!” So it crosses the line from brooding to boring. And that’s a shame as there are the guts of a good story and some decent performances into the bargain.
That said, the stifling/suffocating nature of life on a small island or a remote community is well evoked.
Who for? Patient, introspective types who aren’t necessarily looking for a good time.
Quick review? A woman and her son are forced by circumstance into returning to the childhood home she rejected as a teenager. It doesn’t go well.
Iona will be back at Eden Court Cinema in April. Check www.eden-court.co.uk for finalised dates.