A gloriously fresh take on the tragedy (and comedy) of war.
Tackling the subject of modern war is tough. Messy politics, brutal violence, and too complicated to understand regional justifications lend themselves poorly to effective storytelling. However, for his 2015 film ‘A Perfect Day‘ filmmaker Fernando León de Aranoa brings together a great cast, stunning settings, and a heartfelt, very human story set amidst the Yugoslav Wars.
The plot is refreshingly simple. Workers for the fictional Aid Across Borders who are currently stationed in a war-ravaged country stumble across a
body corpse in a well. It becomes their job to remove it and purify this precious resource. Unfortunately, the only rope they had on hand broke in the first attempt and now, as two separate groups, they scour the countryside in search of rope, any rope.
Group One is led by an eager to return home Mambrú (the ever-charming Benicio del Toro) whose experience doing these things in these places has left its mark across his chiseled face and sorrowful gaze. Accompanied by the bright-eyed rookie Sophie (Mélanie Thierry, delightful) these two “pick-up” Nikola (Eldar Residovic), a young boy seeking a soccer ball, and Russian supervisor Katya (Olga Kurylenko) whose there to evaluate the ongoing effectiveness of Aid Across Borders within this conflict.
Group Two consists of a burnout reject known only as “B” (a joyously madcap Tim Robbins) and his local translator Damir (Bosnian actor Fedja Štukan). While Mambrú pursues more “legitimate” means for rope procurement, B looks for more local-flavored solutions.
These growing more desperate people must worm their way through local politics, impromptu military checkpoints, United Nation “peace keeping” red-tape, and road strewn landmined dead cows on an engaging, epic adventure that offers brief glimpses into what life must truly be like in a land ravaged by war.
Between B’s reckless driving, passion for (very loud) classic rock, and general state of “having fun for fun’s sake” and Mambrú’s ongoing interpersonal chaos over his girlfriend back home and ex-lover Katya now toying with him from the backseat the consistent humor helps undercut the war horrors playing out before our eyes.
de Aranoa’s light touch lets just enough tragedy to sink in and stir the soul; but, we never experience the crippling anger or torment so many other war films elicit. Plays out more like a “Once upon a time” fable. Doesn’t hit as hard, but, is loads more enjoyable.
Never boring, never heavy-handed with a subtle balance of humor and drama and some great performances. ‘A Perfect Day‘ is a perfect way to spend two hours of your day.