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Beautiful, savage and beguiling describes both the island and the central protagonist (stunning performance by Ruth Negga) of this film by writer/director Scott Graham.
This is a tense story that starts off grey, but, then pockets of light appear only for low rumbling in the distance before a terribly thunderous end. The film starts by a kitchen sink in a nondescript council house with Iona and her lover when her teenage son Billy (impressively played by Ben Gallacher) returns with two bottles of milk. Her teenage son, Billy who prefers to be called Bull reacts just like the proverbial bull in a china shop. His reaction necessitates Iona to take them both on an odyssey to the island of her birth: a place where much is seen and little is said much like her.
Scott Graham follows up his award winning debut, Shell, with this the closing film of the 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival and it is incredible. He deftly shows the difference between islanders and those of the mainland and the struggles they have of faith, religion, family dramas all carefully mixed in with Iona’s own struggle with the paradox of missing the island life but hating how claustrophobic it can make you feel.
The reason why the film is so enchanting, aside from the glorious cinematography, is down to the performance of Ruth Negga. It is often said that actors are luminous on screen but she truly is in this role and great things await her. The supporting cast act well and help move along this melodic film. I daren’t say it is slow but more reflective of how life is on an island with a small population that lacks its own doctor, hospital or even police force.
However, the final 20 minutes of the film descended into chaotic melodramatic and predictable mess which took away from the power and majesty of the rest of the film. Setting aside the final 20 minutes of the film I would say this is a must see.
Iona is a fitting end to the Edinburgh Film Festival showing a Scotland that most of us never see.
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