A Perfect Day
Fernando León De Aranoa, Olga Kurylenko, Tim Robbins, Benicio Del Toro
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Spanish director Fernando León de Aranoa cleverly tackles the politics of war, using subtlety instead of shock to aid his cause.
A Perfect Day begins “1995… Somewhere in the Balkans,” and that’s about as much as we know about the situation taking place. Being incredibly vague about the war is what writer/director Fernando León de Aranoahas done so cleverly.
The particulars are irrelevant, as this film is about the lives of those people caught in the cross-fire. In this case the relief workers who are trying to support innocent locals, along with the politics and violence they encounter on a daily basis. But instead of making this a heavy affair, Aranoa uses humour and sharp dialogue to make his point – hence the ironically chirpy title.
This is achieved with the help of a likeable and off-kilter cast, in the form of Benicio del Toro, Tim Robbins, Olga Kurylenko, Fedja Stukan and Mélanie Thierry.
Unfortunately for everyone else involved, it’s the two experienced male leads who steal the show, especially in their scenes together. Del Toro has fun playing the exhausted hero and Robbins is fast becoming a thinking man’s Bill Murray – as he continues to embrace these battier roles.
There are obvious comparisons with M*A*S*H and Catch-22 in its approach to black humour in war, and similarly David O. Russel’s Three Kings, but with an indie twist.
The plot revolves around a group of aid workers in the middle of a war-torn country, as they attempt to salvage a dead body from a well before it contaminates the water supply. This proves to be easier said than done, as they also need to comply with Government protocol and avoid being killed – not to mention the fact rope itself is extremely hard to obtain.
What lets the film down is that this really isn’t enough of a story to carry an entire film, and the many minor subplots are not given the time they need to balance the film as a whole. For instance, the inclusion of a local boy waiting for his parents is where most of the emotion sits, yet the conclusion comes and goes before it’s allowed to properly sink in.
Similarly, Del Toro’s relationship problems that are rising back in America probably aren’t needed. Obviously it was intended to establish some sort of love triangle but it actually distracts the audience from the problems arising in the moment.
Like most memorable war films this also has an amazing soundtrack – one that’s not tied to a specific decade. The inclusion of Velvet Underground in the film may hint at inspiration for the title, while Marilyn Manson’s cover of the Eurythmic’s “Sweet Dreams” is truly haunting.
Much like Zaza Urushadze’s Oscar-nominated Tangerines, A Perfect Day makes a powerful statement on war by disregarding the violence and focusing solely on the strength of regular people in extreme circumstances.