Glasgow Film Festival 2011: Island

island-colinmorgan2.jpgIn 2005, Michael Bay released a film called The Island. It was about clones. And it was pretty rubbish. So please don’t confuse that with this year’s Island, a film based on a remote Scottish island whose environment is just as harsh as it is strangely enchanting.

The story sees Nikki (Natalie Press) go to a remote Scottish island where she believes her family lives. She soon finds her mother Phyllis (Janet McTeer) and brother Calum (Colin Morgan), but chooses not to reveal her true identity to them.

As she spends time with her brother, it quickly becomes apparent the life her family is living is quite a strange one. Calum’s existence is mixed up with the myths and legends of the island, to the extent we’re not quite sure which he believes to be true, and which are just stories.

Island is a film which uses its setting beautifully to create this strange, insular, almost fantastical place. It is the setting which perfectly sets the tone of the movie, which is likewise strange, insular and almost fantastical.

The myths and stories Calum tells may remind viewers of films like Pan’s Labyrinth or Big Fish which also ask the audience to question how much truth lies in the fantastical tales of their main characters. Although in the case of Island, the tales Calum tells are used because he is incapable of communicating his feelings in any other way.

It is a film which uses silence beautifully. There are few scenes of dialogue between Nikki and her Mum, but much is said. Calum and Nikki may talk a little more, but it is when they are silent they appear to say the most.

Despite this fantastical tone, there is a harsh reality to Island. Nikki is a very angry young woman. This, combined with the harsh environment in which the film is set, brought to mind films like Winter’s Bone or The Road.

Island is a bleak, uncompromising film which tells its audience as little as possible and allows them to fill in the blanks. It is a strange, dark, but ultimately very rewarding film about revenge, family and the state of mind in which we choose to live.

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