Ewan McGregor and Peter Mullan are barge workers, and one morning they fish the corpseof a young woman out of the river Clyde. McGregor tries to put the body out of his mind byseducing Mullan’s wife, Tilda Swinton. We soon learn, however, that McGregor knows moreabout the body than he lets on: the dead woman’s name is Cathy, and she is an old girlfriend ofhis. In fact, he knows how she died, and he is even more disturbed when a man he knows to beinnocent is charged with mur…er.
McGregor is a real piece of work here, drifting through life, consumed with selfishness, andunable to act for anyone else’s benefit. His and (especially) Swinton’s performances are braveones, and not just for the nudity. Though some of the symbolism is a bit heavy-handed (theiconic hand mirror that was Cathy’s gift to McGregor), this is balanced by the perfectly judgedrealism of the performances and the setting.
Though this is a very quiet film, the 5.1 track is still very atmospheric, with just the rightdegree of environmental effect (rain, creaking of the barge, water dripping) to create low-keyunease. The music (by David Byrne) is given an equally effective mix, with creepy percussioneffects separated from the rest of the score and emerging from the rear speakers. The dialogueis never distorted or drowned out.
Most of the time, the picture is very good. There are a couple of interior scenes on the barge,however, that are badly grainy, and once or twice the blacks are bit bleached. Otherwise, theimage is sharp. The colours are grey and gold, but become gorgeously lush as the barge movesdownriver to greener countryside.
Director John Mackenzie gets a commentary track to himself (covering the mechanics ofmaking the film, along with the hows and whys and plenty of thematic concerns), and is joinedon a second track by editor Colin Monie, production designer Laurence Dorman, and TildaSwinton. The group track is very different from most of its kind. Instead of tiresome kiddingaround, we have a serious, very intelligent analysis of the film. There is one extended scene (thefirst sex scene between McGregor and Swinton was originally a tiny bit more explicit, and I mustsay the cut in the released film is obvious). There are also three segments of McGregor’s voice-over that was subsequently dropped. Rounding things out are trailers for the feature,Baadasssss, Big Fish, Carandiru, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… andSpring and The Mother. The menu is basic.
Don’t come here for the feel-good movie of the season, but this is spare, intelligent stuff.
Special Features List
- 2 Audio Commentaries
- Extended Scene
- Ewan McGregor Voice Over Segments