A Perfect Day

The dark humor in “A Perfect Day” reminded me of the writing style associated with the Coen Brothers. This film, directed by Fernando León de Aranoa, certainly could have used some of that award-winning Coen savvy. “A Perfect Day,” which received a five-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, has moments of intrigue and fleeting genius. A simple story of a mixed bag follows aid workers trying to clean up a contaminated community well in a country at war. The peacekeeping task force searches for something as simple as a rope in the Falklands but might as well be chasing rainbows. It took me a while to understand and embrace the irony of A Perfect Day, which has few riveting cinematic moments and often objectionable musical choices.

Mambrú (Benicio Del Toro), B (Tim Robbins), and Sophie (Mélanie Thierry) have spent nearly an entire day trying to lift a heavy corpse from a drinking well. UN protocol prohibits anyone, including Aid Across Boarders, from touching a dead body. When the rope they use to reel the body up breaks, the three search for another rope. They meet young Nikola, who is living with his grandparents because his Serbian father and Muslim mother had to flee during the war that broke out in 1995. Katya (Olga Kurylenko) arrives to inform the crew they will be pulled out of the country because “peace” is on its way despite bodies hanging in houses, collapsed shelters, and dangerous bombs on roadsides.

The plot is nearly as frustrating for the viewer as it is for the characters.

It’s curious to present subject matter like the frustrations of aid workers in a war-torn country with the flavor of dark humor. The plot is nearly as frustrating for the viewer as it is for the characters, three steps forward and two steps back. 90’s pop-rock plays in between various scenes as the characters travel around the war-torn community, but it feels entirely out of place narratively. Oscar-winner Del Toro (“Sicario”) plays a rare good guy in a long repertoire of villains. Alongside political activist Robbins (“Mystic River”), the two actors single-handedly make the film worth watching.

“A Perfect Day” is just 24 hours in the war-torn Balkans. At the same time, Angelina Jolie’s first venture as a director, “In the Land of Blood & Honey,” remains one of the most memorable films to fully capture the devastation of that period. If you stick with the aggravations and distressful circumstances of A Perfect Day, it does end with an appropriately ironic conclusion that will make the viewer wonder why aid workers even bother. The filmmakers explore the uselessness of good intentions within the subject matter.

Final Thought

Tries to make a specific point about aid work through irony and dark humor.


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