EIFF 2015 – Iona
The 2015 Edinburgh Film Festival had Scott Graham’s Iona serve as the closing night event. Iona is about a woman named Iona (Ruth Negga) who takes her son to live on the island she was named after following a violent crime that they need to hide from.
I don’t really have a lot to say about this film as there isn’t really a lot to talk about. The story is pretty much as I stated before and there is some attempt to create complications as Iona tries to reacclimate to a slower pace of life after living in the city for so long.
My level of investment in this whole thing was very low. There’s a complete lack of pacing as torturous scenes go by without any dialogue and the film shows us incredibly long scenes of people doing the most mundane things to no real effect. It almost feels like an insanity test with how long these seemingly endless scenes go on for. It will leave you scratching your head as to what is the point of it all.
There was actually some decent scope for conflict as I got the slightest impression that Iona wasn’t entirely welcome back on the island. Her adopted sister Elizabeth (Michelle Duncan) seems less than pleased to see her as it is hinted that her husband Matthew (Tom Brooke) had some sort of prior relationship with Iona.
None of this is explicitly stated in the dialogue nor does become a huge source of conflict at any point. Most of these suggestions I managed to interpret from the admittedly impressive performances from the whole cast. They are given almost nothing to work with beyond facial expressions but for the most part they pull it off.
I liked Ruth Negga in the role of Iona when she was given anything to do. There are hints of darkness to her past that manifest in a sense of awkwardness and mistrust from everyone she meets. I’m not saying the whole thing needed to be overblown with exposition but I wouldn’t have minded a conversation every now and again. There’s only so much beautiful landscape and enduring silence I can take.
The last 20 minutes seem to try to increase the tension in order to bring this slog to some form of a conclusion but it’s too little too late. By that point I had tuned out and completely lost interest so I really didn’t care what was going on with these people.
Oh there’s also a relationship subplot between Iona’s son Bull (Ben Gallagher) and Elizabeth’s daughter Sarah (Sorcha Groundsell) but it’s handled so awkwardly that it doesn’t feel real and is certainly never interesting. When you see the way Bull treats her you’ll see what I mean, it’s confusing and a little bit insane. Also, for some reason various people carry the handicapped Sarah around on their back instead of providing her with a wheelchair or something. Really strange stuff!
It’s a really short and cynical review but there’s just nothing here to recommend. The actors do a good job with the limited scope they have and the scenery looks really nice. It’s a boring story and there’s next to no development of the characters to hold the interest of anyone for very long. This is definitely one to skip.
Beyond some decent performances from the actors and a vaguely intriguing suggestions of what went on in the past this film is definitely a chore to sit through.
The main problem is that it’s bereft of any sense of pacing so scenes just drag on and on showcasing the most mundane tasks for an obscenely long time. It almost qualifies as an insanity test as it’s never really clear what the point of any of it is.
Ruth Negga is really solid as the lead character with the suggestion of a dark past hiding behind her performance. She and the rest of the cast do a lot with facial expressions which is just as well since there’s precious little dialogue to work with.
There’s an attempt to speed things up towards a conclusion in the final 20 minutes or so but it’s really not enough to regain the viewer interest after such a slog to get to that point.
I really can’t recommend this one as it is nothing short of a torturous watch. There are hints of interesting ideas in there but none of them go anywhere so it feels like a procession of nice scenery broken up by some people occasionally doing stuff.