*** (out of five)
Fernando León de Aranoa’s film about aid workers in the last days of the war in the Balkans has a strange, disembodied feel. That’s partly due to the extremely naturalistic, low-key performances of Benicio Del Toro, Tim Robbins, Olga Kurylenko and Mélanie Thierry; it’s partly due to the film’s tone and genre, which is incredibly dry wartime satire; and, perhaps mainly, it’s because the film’s subject matter just seems so distant. The Balkans conflict, to many of us (and perhaps I’m only expressing my own ignorance) was distant and has receded into a fog given the ongoing wars that consume us; a film satirising that conflict’s bureaucratic absurdities seems like an artefact discovered on the shelf of a holiday rental.
Not nearly as biting or angry as M*A*S*H or Catch-22, but certainly within the same sub-genre as those war satires, A Perfect Day – whose ironic title embodies the film – gets by on the gentle interplay between the double act of Del Toro and Robbins (the comedy duo we’ve been waiting for!) They’re aid workers in the Balkans, they’ve got a big fat male body in a well, it’s contaminating the local village’s water, and their rope is broken. Over 24 hours they’ve got to get more rope and get that body out. But the endless idiocracy of war keeps getting in their way – which is all the more infuriating because the war is actually over, it’s just not everyone agrees on that yet.
It feels like an adaptation of a novel, and it is – one that was published in 2004. It feels out of place and time, confusing and arbitrary – not that a film about one of the more confusing and arbitrary conflicts in recent memory shouldn’t. If you’re a big Del Toro fan, it’s a good chance to see him as the lead, which is all too rare.