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Film review: A Perfect Day – Benicio Del Toro, Tim Robbins lift aid worker comedy-drama

There are few surprises, but a refreshing lack of clichés, in this tale set in war-torn Balkans

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2016, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2016, 6:00pm

3.5/5 stars

Aid workers and war reporters are often portrayed the same way in cinema, either as naive idealists or jaded burnouts, living for the job at the expense of everything else. Their desperate crusades frequently end in failure, but can also create charismatic anti-heroes in desperate need of redemption.

A Perfect Day follows world-weary aid worker Mambru (Benicio Del Toro) and his team as they attempt to remove a human corpse from a village well in war-torn former Yugoslavia. Red tape hinders their efforts, while the arrival of Mambru’s ex-lover Katya (Olga Kurylenko) – a UN assessor threatening to send them home – further complicates the situation.

Benicio Del Toro talks fame, Sean Penn’s humanitarianism and new film A Perfect Day

Mambru’s team – an enthusiastic newbie (Melanie Thierry), a local interpreter (Fedja Stukan) and an eccentric veteran incapable of returning home (Tim Robbins) – encounter a variety of dangers and obstacles in their seemingly simple mission. As their domestic dysfunctions bubble to the surface, and differing attitudes provoke a volley of heated infighting, it becomes apparent that they are far more dependent on the war zone than its victims are on their help.

Penned by Spanish director Fernando Leon de Aranoa, A Perfect Day offers few surprises, but manages to rise above its clichés thanks to committed, off-kilter performances, particularly from Del Toro and a back-on-form Robbins. Stunning photography and powerfully staged moments of genuine tension – assisted by a thumping rock soundtrack – keep the viewer engaged throughout, even if they do at times evoke better, older films about Western intervention.

A Perfect Day opens on June 2

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