Photographing Fairies

Edinburgh Festival: Film

Just when you thought British film had rejected costume drama for Trainspotting grunge, along comes first-time director Nick Willing with an Edwardian fable about fairies at the bottom of the garden. Of course, it's about more than that. Touching on the distorting psychosis of grief, it weaves a supernatural detective story that starts with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and leads to some seriously surreal whimsy. Early scenes paint an economical but atmospheric portrait of Britain after the Great War, a time when traditional religion is being supplemented with a hokey spiritualism that thrives on a grieving nation's morbid credulity.

It's a climate that works to the advantage of young photographer Charles Castle (Toby Stephens) who, having lost his wife in a honeymoon accident, spends his days superimposing dead soldiers on to family tableaux.

That is, until the mysterious Bea Templeton (Frances Barber) visits his studio, clutching snaps of her daughters playing with fairies. Convinced of their authenticity, Castle is soon following Bea to the country, to run amok in the woods and cross swords with Bea's preacher husband, the beetle-eyed Ben Kingsley. Despite some fine performances (Stephens' earthy, endearingly sarcastic sidekick Phil Davis is a gem), the film's energy evaporates when the answer to the metaphysical mystery the film throws up turns out to be computer-generated nymphs who buzz around Castle like so many freshly hatched wasps. It's also hard to care much about a hero whose grief makes him about as monolithically impassive as the glacier that swallows his bride.

Screening 9pm, Wed 20 Aug at Cameo 2, 38 Home Street. Booking: 0131- 228 4141 Liese Spencer

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