REVIEW: A Perfect Day to Retrieve a Body

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The Balkan Wars -the most devastating conflict of the 90’s- has been portrayed in film numerous times, from Angelina Jolie’s melodramatic In the Land of Blood and Honey to standard war-is-hell flicks like Welcome to Sarajevo. In most cases, the scope is too massive for a film to fully grasp all the nuances involved, and those who try invariably come short.

A Perfect Day approaches the matter from a different perspective and comes on top. The source of conflict is very self-contained: A dead body in a well threatens to leave a community without access to drinkable water.

The task at hand could be solved with a measly rope, but as the Aid Without Borders team soon discovers, even the simplest challenge becomes a Kafkaesque experience in a conflict zone: It ranks very low in the peacekeepers’ list of priorities, the locals either don’t have any rope or are reluctant to provide it, and rogue soldiers get in the way with makeshift checkpoints. Did I mention the mines peppered along the road?

A Spanish production with a multinational cast, A Perfect Day is the rare case in which stereotypes contribute to the story: The jaded leader (Benicio Del Toro), the reckless second-in-command (Tim Robbins), the oft-dismayed rookie (Melanie Thierry), the anxious translator (Fedja Stukan) and the heartless bureaucrat (Olga Kurylenko), they bicker, sulk and undercut each other, but in the end have each other’s backs.

If you expect a feel-good kind of movie, think again. For all the humanism in display, there is a thick veneer of cynicism thorough A Perfect Day. The film shrewdly states there are two kinds of problems in war: The ones without solution and the ones that solve themselves. This is a terrible motto for an NGO, but a fairly accurate one. Three and a half prairie dogs at the bottom of a well.

A Perfect Day is now playing at Rainbow Cinema Studio 7.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.