DIRECTOR: Fernando León de Aranoa

CAST: Benicio del Toro, Tim Robbins, Melanie Thierry, Loga Kurylenko, Fedja Stukan and Eldar Residovic


RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes

RATING: 4 stars (out of 5)

Theresa Smith

A PERFECT Day is a darkly comical ensemble piece which gives you a jaded glimpse into war times. Instead of concentrating on the bloody fighting part, we see some of what happens in the moments between the actual conflict.

Playing across one day in the lives of a team of UN Aid Across Borders workers in the mid-’90s Balkans, the at times melancholic story turns out to be the opposite of what wthe title suggests – everything simply goes perfectly wrong with the day.

For the team, it starts as just another absurd day, trying to navigate a war zone as workers tasked with sanitation work. But, for the viewer, it is a way to humanise a war that may have played out on our tv screens, but happened very far away in soundbytes.

Director Fernando León de Aranoa concentrates on specific people and shows us how big ideals and decisions affect them, and especially affects aid workers who run towards the trouble.

Benicio del Toro is the jaded team leader Mambrú, trying to get through the day and home to his long-suffering fiancee without her finding out that his one-time fling Katya (Kurylenko) is in town. The just-as-jaded Katya has been dispatched by HQ to assess whether the team is fulfilling their mandate.

While more laid-back, veteran B (Robbins) readily consults with and listens to Mambrú, newest team member, Sophie’s (Thierry) enthusiasm creates more trouble than anything else.

All they are trying to do is remove a dead body from a well, but the red tape of detached bean counters and the intransigence of suspicious locals conspire to make this the most difficult of tasks.

While the characters aren’t novel – the interpreter stuck between loyalty to his people and potential violence to his person from opposition, the world-weary aidworker who has been there and worn out the T-shirt, the idealistic newby and the cute little boy who just wants to play soccer – the place is novel to the audience.

The actors are a stellar bunch, but they do struggle somewhat to string together a series of admittedly engrossing and ever-more logic- defying events. There is a war going on, people are dying, but this team are looking for a rope and they spent a whole day doing that, just so they can do the job they are tasked with doing.

Their dark wisecracks and the increasingly bizarre situation serve to detract you from the fight, but every now and then De Aranoa twitches back the curtain and you are reminded that war is horror.

If you liked The Program or 99 Homes, you will like this.

Read the review here.