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Pelican Blood

A glib low-budgeter about a young couple with suicidal tendencies.

Cast:
With: Harry Treadaway, Emma Booth, Ali Craig, Arthur Darvill, Christopher Fulford, Emma Clifford, Daniel Hawksford, John Hollingworth.

A glib low-budgeter about a young couple with suicidal tendencies, “Pelican Blood” doesn’t offer those bent on self-destruction many reasons to live. The best that can be said for this Blighty-set drama, helmed by Irish-born Karl Golden (“The Honeymooners”), is that it makes birdwatching, a pursuit for some characters here, look moderately sexy and exciting. Members of the Audubon Society might be enthused, but otherwise this tonally muddy, neither-fish-nor-fowl pic will struggle to find an aud even in its domestic environment.

For reasons never made satisfactorily clear, twentysomething Nikko (charismatic up-and-comer Harry Treadaway, one of pic’s few plusses) has been drawn to the idea of suicide for some time. Before the film’s action proper began, he met femme animal-rights activist Stevie (Emma Booth, “Clubland”) on a suicide website; when Stevie dumped Nikko, he tried to kill himself and subsequently spent some time in a mental asylum.

An obsessive-compulsive who cleans houses for a living, Nikko has tried to heal himself by taking up birdwatching with two friends, Bish (Ali Craig) and Cameron (Arthur Darvill). Anyone who thought this hobby was mainly about sitting quietly with binoculars in pretty countryside settings will be surprised to learn, per evidence here, that it’s actually fraught with rivalry, even danger, due to competition not only with fellow birders, but also with wild-egg collectors, the birdwatchers’ sworn enemies.

Bish and Cameron are none too pleased when Nikko and Stevie resume their relationship, an excuse for a couple of woozily shot, R rating-worthy sex scenes.

For two-thirds of the film’s running time, nothing much happens at all, before a sudden crime that finally creates some dramatic tension; unfortunately, it’s too little, too late. More damaging, the jejune, foolishly romanticized attitude toward suicide may intensely irritate some viewers.

Others may be simply annoyed with the paint-roller-wide strokes used by screenwriter Cris Cole to depict most of the characters, such as Nikko’s sister (Emma Clifford) and brother-in-law (Daniel Hawksford), who are not once but twice called on to look shocked at naked, free-spirited young people or a gaggle of evil poachers.

Although her character doesn’t add up to much more than a stock kooky alt-girl, Oz-born thesp Booth manages to add some light and shading to her Stevie; it helps that she and Treadaway have good sexual chemistry together.

Lensing on 16mm stock by Darran Tiernan is serviceably atmospheric in interiors, but relies a little too much on magic-hour timing for that wow factor in the exterior shots. Use of locations in and around Nottingham as a stand-in for London often fails to convince.

Pelican Blood

U.K.

Production: An Icon Entertainment Intl. presentation in association with P&C Arcade Film Fund, Magna Films, EM Media, Molinare London of an Ecosse Films production. (International sales: Icon, London.) Produced by Robert Bernstein, Douglas Rae, John McDonnell. Executive producers, Mark Woolley, Suzanne Alizart, Hubo Grumbar, Christopher Figg, Robert Whitehouse. Co-producers, Steve Milne, Mark Foligno, Deepak Sikka, Matt Delargy, James Saynor. Directed by Karl Golden. Screenplay, Cris Cole, based on a novel by Cris Freddi.

Crew: Camera (color, 16mm), Darran Tiernan; editor, Martin Brinkler; music, Niall Byrne; music supervisor, Liz Gallacher; production designer, Richard Bullock; art director, Rosie Jones; costume designer, Camille Benda; sound (Dolby Digital), Mitchell "Wookie" Low; re-recording mixers, Billy Mahoney; visual effects supervisor, Simon Kilroe; line producer, Jane Hooks; assistant director, Nickie Sault; casting, Gail Stevens. Reviewed at Edinburgh Film Festival (British Gala), June 22, 2010. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: With: Harry Treadaway, Emma Booth, Ali Craig, Arthur Darvill, Christopher Fulford, Emma Clifford, Daniel Hawksford, John Hollingworth.

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