Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
Commanded by an impressive roster of talent, including Benicio Del Toro, Olga Kurylenko and Tim Robbins, this ensemble tragicomedy strikes just the right balance of bracing levity and sobering truth. An ode to the efforts of aid workers during the Bosnian conflict of the 90s, A Perfect Day follows five of them as they attempt to hoist a sizable corpse out of a village water well before it poisons the local supply. Finding some rope for the job is just one of the many complications that ensue. As the team navigate villages of rabid dogs, trigger-happy children and landmines, the film’s title quickly finds its irony.
But director Fernando León de Aranoa chooses wonderful methods to subvert our expectations. Aided by a rambunctious soundtrack of punk and rock ‘n’ roll hits and dollops of wry dialogue, he evokes the shambling, nonchalant energy and humorous characterisation of a Richard Linklater film, all while admitting the uneasy suspense that underscores every moment. These guys crack jokes and trade digs with one another because sometimes that’s all there is to do. De Aranoa’s resistance to play into obvious, easy melodrama keeps this film vital and fresh, making the emotion coursing through its haunting closing moments feel all the more earned. — JF
“This wonderful little film, set ‘somewhere in the Balkans’ in 1996, is extremely witty and light on its feet, yet it manages to be thoughtful, even philosophical, in an absurdist way, about the roots of human conflict… The whole film is anti-sentimental yet heartfelt.” — Joe Morgenstern, Wall St Journal