One Day Removals
Stirton already made One Day Removals as a short film back in 2004 called Removals, the story of two men who are in the removals business and are called to a job which goes disastrously wrong. Before long they have a stack of bodies in the back of the van and the accidents keep happening.
The story for One Day Removals is simple, it's a day in the life of two friends and co-workers in Aberdeen. They're removal men who have a seemingly simple job to take care of outside of the city. A husband and wife are divorcing and the wife wants them to collect all her stuff and move her out. A big job, lot's of driving, and money to be made.
However as soon as they start the day things seem to be going wrong, and not only that but escalating, and they don't seem to be stopping. Soon they are both in more trouble than you could ever imagine, with a van that's piling up with bodies, and that's just by lunchtime, wait till you see what the afternoon has in store.
Now I don't really know if I need to declare the fact that I lived in Aberdeen in the North-East of Scotland for many years, that I can understand and even speak Doric (although not as well as my mother), that I do love new ideas and independent film, and that I've chatted with Mark Stirton and he's a decent bloke.
However what I know I do need to make clear, and this is not an apology or an excuse, merely an explanation, is how independent and small budget films can be reviewed.
If you review Citizen Kane or Blade Runner with a five out of five, or ten out of ten, and then compare them with a film such as The Planet or One Day Removals, independent films made with passion, heart, and not the same access to resources, money, and backing that these huge films have enjoyed, what are you going to give them? Nothing? One?
You can't do that because they just cannot be compared. I've heard a lot of negative things said about The Planet with the effects and acting ripped apart, but as Mark Stirton has said, they're being compared to Cloverfield (Filmstalker review) or Transformers (Filmstalker review), and there's no contest.
When reviewing The Planet I bore in mind that this was made with real peoples money, people like you and me. With resources, time and effort of people just like us, and that's about as far removed from these big budget blockbusters as you could imagine.
Of course if you compare them then these independent films fall to the bottom and never get seen, however if you view them on their own, look at what has been accomplished with what they have available and with the odds stacked against them, I believe you get the true measure of a film, and both the film and the film-makers receive the true merits of their work.
There, that's all I'm going to say on that subject, and it's not an excuse, it's to tell you how I look at independent films. They don't need massive robots and real life cities destroyed by CGI. They need heart, passion, and an ability to touch the audience in some way, and you know what? That's actually what cinema is all about, but some people have forgotten that and have been dazzled by bright lights and big booms. I said booms.
Okay, lecture over, now to the film, One Day Removals.
There are a number of things you notice about One Day Removals straight away, but one hits you right from the start, particularly if you've seen Stirton's previous film The Planet, the production values.
This film is much slicker and more feature like. The reliance on special effects and set pieces is done away with in this film as it focuses solely on characters and their situations, and for the most part everything is pretty much real life. That puts the reliance on a number of aspects, the writing, the acting, the filming, and the editing, and all of those areas have taken strong positive steps from The Planet.
The script is the heart of this film as it really is about two men, their relationship and the situations they get into. There's a lot of humour in the story and it's mixed fairly between the lines that the two leads deliver and the situations themselves. There is a fair amount of comedy based around the use of the Doric language, or dialect if you will, a staple everyday hearing in Aberdeen, but the most come from the characters themselves and their lines and reactions.
Andy, played by Patrick Wight, delivers some superbly sarcastic and sharp comments, whereas Ronnie, played by Scott Ironside, has some hilarious moments where his character finds it hard to comprehend the situation that they find themselves in and where he descends into a red mist and his anger delivers some laugh out loud moments.
That is perhaps the most praiseworthy thing I can say about this film, I had some laugh out loud moments, and for someone who sees a lot of films, that doesn't happen very often with comedy these days, especially with the proliferation of American comedy based on sex, bodily functions and slapstick.
The other thing I really liked about the script, putting the bizarre situations and accidents to the side, is the reality of the dialogue. Combined with the delivery of the actors the dialogue felt very real and natural, words, phrases and reactions flowed well with the characters and never felt stilted or felt the need for suspension of disbelief in any way. It felt exactly the way that people would speak in these situations. Well, Aberdonians anyway!
It's wonderful to hear the colourful language that these two come out with during the film, because lets face it, that's real, not the "damn and blast it all to hell" kind of dialogue we hear in Hollywood because they're squeezing something into a rating, but the very real swearing that we find in everyday life.
I don't know about you, but I can swear like a trooper, and while I might like to keep it off of Filmstalker so that it can appeal to all audiences, it's real dialogue. Again, particularly in Aberdeen!
I can honestly say I've never heard more fowl language in my life, but it's not put in there for the shock value, not by any means.
The accidents that seem to occur around the characters are well conceived and provide for laughter, as well as a few moments of horror - the hook in the eye moment is the best effect in the whole film and really surprised me, for a moment I thought they may actually have killed Kerwin Robertson for the film.
With the action taking place in and around the removal van with mainly just the two characters, the film sounds as though it might run out of ways to keep the audience interested, but there are a fair few changes of location around Aberdeen, and the camera work usually finds something a little different to focus on rather than the straight shots you might expect from a lower budget film.
Some of the cinematography in the film is pretty strong, and you can see this from the opening shots that, coupled with the voice over, really do set the scene for the level that this film is pitching itself in.
This feeling carries through the film, and isn't something that's just left for the opening or the first half, later on in the film we still see these wider more scenic shots coupled with the scenes of story progression.
A number of times there are some clever uses of characters talking while the time frame flits back and forth, and this, and a number of other transitional moves between scenes add the polish onto this feature that show that Stirton and his team have definitely moved forward. The continuing flashes from the police station back to the action give the film an extra feeling of depth and the closing sequences from the courtroom onwards are an interesting take on how to wrap up the story.
I do think that there's still space for some tighter editing at times, and at others there's a little too much, but these latter moments are usually down to one of the more complicated set-ups involved in some of the accidents. They require a number of close cropped shots to show the progression of the Mouse Trap style events, and they feel a little clumsy and stilted, to be fair though they seem pretty complex shots, particularly the final accident set-up.
These were the moments that didn't work well for me, and in the last accident I struggled to understand what was happening until after the events, something which could be so easily down to the scale of the sequence which perhaps proved a little too big for the scale of the production. Still they did manage to pull it off.
It's the same for the the scene of the accident in the boat, a sequence that is later explained in the audio commentary as to why the shots seem rather split between the shore and the sea and don't quite gel together.
The acting has improved since the The Planet too, and both Patrick Wight and Scott Ironside who also starred in that film, seem perfectly at home playing the Aberdonian removal men at odds with each other and pushed into a corner.
Both give strong performances, and while Wight gives a perfectly natural performance, I have to say I loved it when Ironside was losing the plot and his character was flipping out, during some of these moments I had the biggest laughs.
The story plays out well, and the ending gives a satisfying conclusion with a rather unusual twist. By that I mean the rather unusual way the story ends compared to the standard conclusion of films. I did enjoy the montage conclusion that leads to the final sequence. It's well put together and has some additional tongue in cheek moments and is another interesting way to progress the story.
The film is well shot and looks good, particularly considering the weather challenges that the film faced in Aberdeen. Once again, just like on the film The Planet, they've managed to make their locations look much better on screen and the picture throughout the film looks natural but feels far more cinematic.
The sound is good considering the vast differences in the filming locations, from all the outside shooting to the internals of the van. It is only Dolby Digital, but then there's not that much that would benefit from multiple speakers since most of the film is dialogue.
Commentary with Mark Stirton and Patrick Wight, Behind the Scenes Photos, Easter Egg, Gag Reel
Commentary with Mark Stirton and Patrick Wight
The commentary from Stirton reveals a lot of the work involved in behind the scenes of an independent film. Wight reveals a little about the acting and the film, but it's really Stirton's dialogue of some of the scenes that is the most interesting. Hearing his explanation of the boat scene and the problems filming is interesting, but it could all have benefited with more behind the scenes information which I'm sure all budding film-makers would lap up.
There are some good moments here but I'm actually surprised that there weren't way more mistakes than this. Surprisingly the film is funnier than the gag reel, I say surprisingly as this isn't the case with Hollywood comedy, so to find a comedy that's funnier than its gag reel is a good thing!
Aha! There's an easter egg on the DVD too...but that would be telling.
One Day Removals is a very good film with some strong moments of comedy, and to boot it does a great job of representing Scotland in film, the real Scotland, not Braveheart, kilts and drugs. It gives us some far more realistic characters and indeed more realistic language and dialogue than many of these other films do - why the hell Scottish Screen aren't paying Stirton some positive attention is beyond me. Oh, perhaps because he's not doing the Braveheart, kilts and drugs, well not in his films.
There's a great script here, that has a couple of strong characters in some very funny situations that I found provided genuinely laugh out loud moments, and some purely through their original Doric dialogue. The interactions between the two characters are well written and provide for some very real moments that are a source of a lot of the humour, as well as a few touching and insightful ones.
On the DVD front it would also have been interesting to hear from more of the people behind the scenes and for the extras to concentrate on the independent side of the production, however it's a good DVD offering.
Stirton Productions have delivered another strong film, and better than the last, with more swearing that you'll believe and plenty of laughs. You have to wonder what they are going to do next, but it's clear if they keep getting distribution deals and returning a profit then we're just going to see bigger and better things from them. What is sure is that they won't be turning out the same as before, and despite the remake status of this film, it beats Hollywood and delivers one that is better than the original.
Update: I've been swithering over this for ages because I think this is more deserving than a three, although taking the whole DVD into account I couldn't quite justify a four, it lay somewhere in between. Yet I don't do in between scores. So I've increased it to a four...I wish I had a 3.8!
Update: 20/02/2009: Glasgow Film Festival 2009 screening
I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to the screening of One Day Removals at the Glasgow Film Festival, a screening that was totally sold out and in which were only two people who had already seen the film, myself included and the special guests excluded, I think that's a great ratio and a good sign for the film.
The screening didn't start well, the sound was pretty poor in the cinema, despite the pre-checked print that was used at previous festivals, and the picture was also set rather dark. Despite this the audience really got into the film and I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of laughter and enjoyment in the audience.
The main thing I noticed, and the reason why I'm writing this into the existing review, is that there was a new cut of the film. While it didn't change anything drastically in terms of story or any major scenes, what it did do is make the entire film snappier and speed up the pace. I really did enjoy this cut quite a bit more than the screener version that the review was based on.
Even more exciting news is that the film-makers are working on another cut, losing two more minutes, adding in some more footage, and making it flow even better than it does in this new cut. Definitely something to watch out for. This cut will be the one released in the U.S. on DVD.