A unique approach to examining life inside a warzone fails to convince in Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s Balkan dramedy, A Perfect Day.
A Perfect Day sees a group of aid workers who’re stationed in the Balkans during the mid-nineties rush to resolve a crisis all whilst navigating the bitter conflict that has engulfed the region.
Tasked with removing a rotting corpse from a deep well, the insouciant Mambrú (Benicio del Toro) and the loud-mouthed B (Tim Robbins) aren’t just on the lookout for enemy soldiers; their race against time to save the water supply is hampered by the arrival of their United Nations handler Katya (Olga Kurylenko), who is out to shut the operation down for good.
Del Toro and Robbins quip back and forth, tease the naïve aide Sophie (Mélanie Thierry) and generally treat the whole corpse retrieval mission like they’re bobbing for apples; “Is he your first corpse?” inquires Robbins to a perplexed Thierry. “It’s an important moment, your first corpse – it’s like your first girlfriend or the first time you get laid”.
It’s a role that at first feels a million miles away from del Toro’s seething intensity in Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, but the narrative soon steers into more sincere territory as our characters come into conflict with gun-toting preteens, distrustful soldiers and all manner of hostile characters that litter the bleak Balkan landscape.
A chirpy opening makes way for a flabby middle section that meanders from point to point without much direction, all whilst the characters bicker and snipe at one another. The jangly guitars and jazzy pop tunes festooning the film feel out of place against the poverty-stricken backdrop; at times, it feels as though director Fernando León de Aranoa is unsure of where on the spectrum his film sits. There aren’t enough laughs to bill this as a straight-up comedy, but the drama lacks rhythm, pace and conviction.
The Verdict: 5/10
Messy, jumbled and a bit of a drag, I can't recommend A Perfect Day as either a whimsical comedy or a compelling drama.
A Perfect Day is currently playing at UWA Somerville as part of the Perth International Arts Festival until December 6.