Pelican Blood, Edinburgh Film Festival

3.00

Rebel with a pair of binoculars

Karl Golden's Pelican Blood, a world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival, is a fraught drama about youthful angst and rebelliousness set (very incongruously) in the world of birdwatching. The low-budget British film is shot in a freewheeling style that invokes memories of Danny Boyle's Trainspotting. Golden throws in hand-held camera work, frenetic scenes of the lead characters running away from security guards and dangling from the ledges of high-rise buildings, and plenty of music to pump up the intensity.

The screenplay, adapted from Cris Freddi's novel by Cris Cole, has a nice line in sardonic, fatalistic humour. The problem is that the premise is so wildly far-fetched. Audiences will surely struggle to accept the idea of the James Dean or Ian Curtis-like outsider who spends his spare time in an anorak with binoculars, hoping to catch a glimpse of some rare warbler or bird of prey.

The two main protagonists are wild, self-destructive types who've met through a suicide website. Nikko (Harry Treadaway) has an obsessive-compulsive personality. He is recovering from a traumatic incident in which he attempted to kill himself, but ended up hurting his sister. Stevie (Emma Booth) is an environmental campaigner who wants to save animals but is always ready to harm herself.

In Trainspotting, the characters took drugs. Here, they go on field trips. The film-makers' treatment of the birdwatching subculture is strictly tokenistic. They have no real interest in the world of the "twitchers" other than at a metaphorical level. This is a fitting hobby for a character who loves to draw up lists. It provides the pretext for some puns about "fit birds" and some unlikely rural action sequences in which Nikko tussles with poachers in the woods and stalks rivals, who are trying to steal rare birds' eggs.

Reflecting the mood swings in the two lead characters, the film's tone oscillates wildly. Upbeat moments of youthful high jinks that wouldn't look out of place in a romantic comedy are contrasted with some grim sequences. In their more facetious moments, the film-makers risk trivialising suicide by presenting it almost as if it's a lifestyle choice.

What saves Pelican Blood from seeming exploitative is the intensity and emotional complexity of the performances. In particular, Golden makes heavy demands on Treadaway, who could easily have been very irritating indeed in his role as a grief-stricken, list-making manic-depressive. Nikko looks like a member of some Britpop indie band, but between birdwatching expeditions, he works as a house cleaner, polishing and dusting clients' homes in a frenzied fashion. His behaviour is frequently obnoxious. Even so, Treadaway is able to make us care about Nikko and even to identify with him.

Pelican Blood doesn't really hang together. Loose ends abound. None the less, there is enough raw talent here to enable the film to take wing.

The Edinburgh Film Festival continues to 27 June (edfilmfest.org.uk)

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones