EIFF Student Critics' Best of 2013: Day 7

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Our Student Critics Jury has spoken! Every day this week we have published a review by each of our Student Critics of their top pick from EIFF 2013.

Today's final review comes from Lewis Camley. His pick of the Fest is a Scottish film which made our Best of the Fest: Blackbird.

Arms aloft aboard a boat named 'Tinkerbell', crowing at a sun which sets him in silhouette, the ambiguous Lost Boy at the heart of Jamie Chambers' Peter Pan story is steeped in a conflict of loved heritage and encroaching modernity. Bound up in the maintenance of folkish local mythology, Blackbird offers a beguiling, if slightly unoriginal, examination of one boy's struggles with maturity and the great losses that time can bring.

Ruadhan(Andrew Rothney), the film's passionate but naïve lead embodies the trope of Scottish psychological duality: a man-child who is “pathologically shy, coupled with innate narcissism." Careering around his rural town in search of song and cultural significance, this young folklorist frantically tries to keep a connection to the local past alive. Death looms, however, for the elderly friends who teach it; while threatening change in the unusual form of a new bistro isolates Ruadhan within his community.

Blackbird's shifts between slow lingering scenes and energetic dreamy sequences cultivate entwined tones of nostalgia and lamentation. Crisp close-ups and the initially earnest performance of Rothney are important in this, but the use of music is crucial. From the haunting folk ballads of local residents to the painful silences surrounding death, the power of sound underpins the depiction of a community in love with traditions and private mythologies it knows might soon be lost. Indeed sound and silence begin to form their own internal folklore in the film, as song repeatedly presages death; an idea reinforced by the fantastical stories these characters tell one another.

These larger issues of changing identity are brought in to sharper focus through the parallels and echoes created in Ruadhan's relationships. Living parentless, watching his friends grow old and die, and wary of those who want to leave, The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up undergoes traumatic maturing experiences of sex, death and powerlessness. Like his community, he is forced to face the future: the choice of the traditional home he loves or the pull of the big smoke and beyond.

Blackbird tells an old story about old stories in a fresh, uplifting way; one laden with symbolism in asking important, unanswered questions of Scottish identity, culture and future.

Lewis Camley


Read our interview with the stars of Blackbird here.

Find all of our Student Critics Jury's reviews here.

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The Student Critics Jury is a group of bright young student film critics mentored at Edinburgh International Film Festival.


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