Back in 2010, emerging Scottish director Paul Wright picked up a BAFTA for his short film Until the River Runs Red. Now, trying his hand at feature-length filmmaking, Wright returns with For Those in Peril (2013), a worthy debut which holds great promise. Aaron (George MacKay) is the sole survivor of a disastrous fishing incident which sees his older brother, amongst others, go missing. As the local police give up their search for the young men who have lost their lives, the grieving Aaron doesn’t give up hope and along with his brother’s fiancée (Nichola Burley), decides to go looking for the vanished fishermen himself.
Aaron’s naïve actions provoke much disdain amongst his small community, who resent the boy for surviving the accident and blame him for what had occurred. Contending not only with a death in the family, Aaron is also battling against his own rumour-mongering people, despite support from his mother (Kate Dickie). Using voiceover narration from local characters and recordings of phone calls on top of authentic-looking footage, For Those in Peril feels very much like a bona fide documentary. The small town setting also works wonderfully, with the locals’ reaction to the disaster intriguing, influenced by both folklore and ingrained loyalty. Meanwhile, Aaron’s mourning process is initially tepid, intensifying as the film progresses.
MacKay shines as our lead, in arguably his finest performance to date. Also appearing in Sunshine on Leith – a film that portrays an optimistic, exultant side to Scotland – it’s safe to say this is somewhat more bleak offering, yet what ties the two films together, is his incredible sincerity. He has so much desire for his brother to still be alive, you almost find yourself believing in the impossible too. The audience enters in to Aaron’s fragile mind, as it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate between what is actually happening and what he is imagining, with the line between fiction and reality suitably blurred.
With obvious similarities to Shane Meadows’ cult British drama Dead Man’s Shoes, Wright doesn’t sentimentalise his film’s intrinsic brotherly relationship, but provides a naturalistic portrayal highlighting the tension and flaws that exist within it. For Those in Peril isn’t afraid to take risks and is full of ingenuity, but at its core is an emotive piece about overcoming a death in the family – something we can all surely associate with. Much will rightly be expected from Wright’s sophomore follow-up.