For Those In Peril, which premiered in Director's Fortnight today, continues a long tradition of a Cannes a berth for lyrical but somewhat fatalistic coming-of-age movies from Britain, this time adding a dash of magic realism.
Set in a small Scottish fishing village, the film stars George MacKay – soon to be seen in Kevin Macdonald's How I Live Now and Dexter Fletcher's Sunshine On Leith – as Aaron, the sole survivor of an unexplained accident at sea that has killed a number of young men, including his beloved brother. Aaron suffers the inevitable survivor issues: wracked with guilt, he obsessively calls the coast guard and trawls the beach for proof that his brother has survived. But before terrifying his poor mother (Kate Dickie) with his increasingly erratic behaviour, Aaron strikes up a close friendship with his brother's girlfriend (Nichola Burley), which, far from giving him closure, seems actually to make things worse.
Over time, however, the films shifts from a naturalistic, Ken Loach-style style study of grief to something more disturbing. We start to realise than Aaron's relationship with his brother may be more than a little romanticised, as the boy starts slipping into a world of violent delusion. It doesn't become a thriller, as such, but first-timer Paul Wright has certainly directed a film that may be a little too ambitious for many audiences, mixing the social realism of Ratcatcher with a seeping, fantastical malevolence that recalls Dead Man's Shoes.
It's a blend that won't appeal to everyone, but, as a calling card, For Those In Peril does show promise, especially from Wright as a director of actors. His cast – which includes a very unsettling cameo from Michael Smiley – could not be bettered, and the film provides a showcase for MacKay that may well make him one the UK's most promising young actors.