EIFF 2015 – Bereave
Evangelos and George Giovanis Bereave is an exploration of mortality through the lens of a man who is fatally ill and contemplating what will be left behind as he is celebrating his 40th wedding anniversary.
Or at least that’s what I think it’s about. Bereave isn’t the easiest film to follow at the best of times and not because it’s narratively complex. It feels less like a story and more like a collection of random scenes cut together masquerading as a narrative.
There is a point in the film where things make sense but unfortunately it’s over in the first few minutes. The film opens with Garvey (Malcolm McDowell) struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed. This lack of motivation seems to affect him so much that he contemplates shooting himself. Shortly after that he talks about phoning an old friend only to be reminded that he’s dead. I was all set for a melancholic story about a man suffering from alzheimer’s and thinking that people long dead were still alive.
To say that’s not what I got would be a vast understatement. The narrative launches into a downward spiral of unsolicited madness from pretty early on and just gets more bizarre as it goes on. To give an idea of what to expect here, Garvey randomly runs away from his wife Evelyn (Jane Seymour) to go for walks where he pays children to hit him and then has wine and cake with an unemployed violinist (Cree Kelly). This is genuinely what happens and I can’t for the life of me fathom why. As if that wasn’t enough he decides he’s going to pay this beautiful young women that he just met a wage in return for her hanging around the graveyard every day until something tells her otherwise. This actually pays off at the end but this is not how human beings behave.
Evelyn is a strange character -though for this film she seems almost normal- who at first seems to make sense as she craves affection from her husband and feels undervalued as he tells her that she is “almost beautiful”. Ouch, what a slap in the face that is. It appears that his behaviour leads her to some sort of mental breakdown where she takes sleeping pills and goes sleepwalking in her wedding dress. There’s even a scene where she fences with a vase. I’m not kidding, it’s absolute lunacy.
McDowell and Seymour do a good job with what they are given and seem to take the acting side of things seriously. McDowell in particular radiates emotional intensity in many scenes but the problem is the scenes are so ridiculous that his performance seems to contrast what the scene is about. There’s a scene early on where he is taking to his brother Victor (Keith Carradine) and tells him that he needs to breathe in his face which he then does and Victor doesn’t even react.
Victor is featured in this film but he seems to have no use other than padding out the running time. He also wanders around acting bizarrely by breaking into his childhood home for reasons that are never made clear and having various arguments with random people until he shaves his head. I’m pretty baffled by all of this as his plot -if you can call it that- goes nowhere and lacks any sort of significance. Carradine does a good job as being bitter and fed up but he’s pretty much got that nailed.
Garvey and Evelyn have two adult children, Penelope (Vinessa Shaw) and Steve (Mike Doyle). Penelope seems to figure into what passes for plot here in a big way as she has a lot of screen time and interacts with her parents a lot. She has a daughter Cleo (Rachel Eggleston) who is obsessed with hunting the tooth fairy to the point where she attacks Penelope in the night. Penelope is also emotionally distant and has a weird strained relationship with her daughter who is not allowed to act like a child for some reason.
I have to question why the character of Steve was here at all. He only appears in a few scenes and does absolutely nothing of consequence. I guess his girlfriend Natalie (Hannah Cowley) qualifies as female eye candy for the movie but like most things in this film, Steve’s presence is a mystery.
The theme here would be randomness. Things just happen for no real reason here to the point where a home invasion scenario towards the end doesn’t feel out of place because by that point I had completely given up on expecting plot, structure or common sense.
Despite all of this, I would say check this out. It’s not “good” by any means but it’s actually really entertaining. This level of lunacy has to be seen to be believed and I think that it will be enjoyed by many on a metatextual level in the near future. This could be a new addition to the “terrible yet enjoyable” film list putting it right alongside Tommy Wiseau’s The Room as an intriguing curiosity. Definitely to be enjoyed with alcohol and friends.
A bizarre and baffling mess of a film bereft of anything resembling plot, structure or common sense after around the first 5 minutes.
The plot -if you can call it that- is all over the place with scenes that make no sense featuring character behaving in ways that human beings don’t. It’s all played completely straight as well. It’s as if the film is trying to pass it all off as something normal.
Malcolm McDowell and Jane Seymour do a good job with what they’re given and the performances they give directly contrast with the absolute lunacy of the whole thing. McDowell in particular radiates emotional intensity in several key scenes but it just clashes with what is actually going on.
There are several characters that have no business being there as well as subplots that come from nowhere and go absolutely nowhere. It happens so frequently throughout that it feels like a stylistic choice.
Despite all of that it’s a really good time and can certainly be enjoyed on a metatextual level. It’s probably best enjoyed after a few drinks with some friends who are all game to sit and laugh at how bizarre the whole thing is.