February 24, 2016

PERFECT DAY (Fernando León de Aranoa )106 minutes. Opens Friday (February 26). See listingRating: NNNN

This shaggy, likeable film from director Fernando León de Aranoa chronicles 24 obstacle-ridden hours in the life of some international aid workers.

Set “somewhere in the Balkans” in 1995, it could be described as a Sisyphean comedy. The opening image of a bloated cadaver being hoisted out of a well, until the rope break, encapsulates what follows. Between inscrutable regional politics, ongoing turf issues with the UN and land mines preventing safe passage, it’s a wonder these working-class altruists get anything done. 

Our motley crew consists of Mambrú (Benicio Del Toro), the weary veteran; B (Tim Robbins), the manic hot-dogger; Sophie (Mélanie Thierry), the newcomer condescended to by the higher-ups; Damir (Fedja Stukan), the stoic local; and Katya (Olga Kurylenko), Mambrú’s former mistress, who turns up to evaluate their mission’s sustainability. Much of the action concerns coping with absurdity, trying to get from A to B in one piece, dodging checkpoints, maybe helping a kid retrieve his soccer ball.

The film is based on the book by aid worker Paula Farias, but the overriding theme feels kindred to León de Aranoa’s Mondays In The Sun, his 2002 film about unemployed shipyard workers, starring Javier Bardem. This is at bottom about how work – or the lack thereof – shapes our lives.      

Read the NOW Magazine review here.