BIFF 2013 - Magpie - Cinema Review

'Price's film sets up a potentially exciting plot which breaks free from the smoke-stained walls of traditional whiskey-swilling social realism'

The first third or so of Marc Price's Magpie proves to be a wonderful examination of just how inadequate funerals are as methods of saying goodbye to loved ones. As absent father Tony (Craig Russell) turns up to his young son's wake, the realisation hits home and in a shock of alcohol-fuelled realisation, Tony absconds with the coffin. In the section, which lasts around twenty-minutes, Price's film has set up a potentially exciting plot as well as broken free from the smoke-stained walls of traditional whiskey-swilling social realism. It's a dynamic opening which should set Magpie on the road to grim acts of emotional cleansing.

The problem is that the further away from Tony's madcap escape the film gets, the more uninteresting it becomes. Comedy sidekick Phil (Phil Deguara) is allowed to take far too much of the focus and, eventually, Craig's (Alastair Kirton) hinted-at problems seem to hold as much import on the plot as Tony's. There are little flashes of the much more interesting version of Magpie, where Tony is forced to confront his absenteeism and alcoholism and some sort of equilibrium is reached with his son's mother Emily (Daisy Aitkens), who not so secretly seems to be quite glad the group have ended up on this morbid road trip.

Instead, Phil's comedic inclinations take hold, the lads have a laddish night in a pub with Emily left in the car and the meaningful aspects of the plot get increasingly lost. The finale seems to reference Children Of Men, a really heady film to nod to, and though the ideas of fatherly protection are present, it seems an odd one to call to mind; Science-Fiction dystopia versus wannabe New Wave social realism.

The performances all come out of what is at times a plotting black hole looking at least fairly good. Aitkens is excellent as a conflicted key component of the main band, whilst Deguara stays just the right side of comically annoying - a fair feat by Price in his direction, given how keen to talk and joke Deguara naturally appears to be, on evidence of the post-screening Q&A. Kirton is less convincing but gets the worst part: a character apparently designed to take your focus away from the more interesting story, whilst Russell's broken every-man is sometimes a bit weedy.

There's some moribund goodness here but anything that's not in the first third is too lacking in relevant narrative drive to be fully memorable.

The 19th Bradford International Film Festival ran from 11th to 21st April 2013 at the National Media Museum and other venues near to the city.

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