R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Alison Peebles
scr Andrea Gibb
with Kevin McKidd, Paula Sage, Lindsay Duncan, Shirley Henderson, James Laurenson, Fiona Bell, Maureen Carr, Isla Blair, Anthony Strachan, Julie Austin, Emma D'Inverno, Eddie Marsan
release UK 13.Aug.04
03/UK 1h44

Averting a family crisis: McKidd and Duncan

mckidd sage henderson
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AfterLife This award-winning Scottish film looks worryingly like a heartwarming tale of sweetness and love. And that it is! But it's also extremely well written, acted and filmed with edgy life and humour that keeps it from turning mawkish.

Kenny (McKidd) is a high-flying Edinburgh journalist on the case of a doctor (Laurenson) accused of assisting the suicide of a patient with the help of a Swiss agency called AfterLife. While pursuing an exclusive interview, Kenny gets a call that his mother (Duncan) has sprained her leg and needs him back home in Ayreshire to help care for his feisty little sister Roberta (Sage), who has Down's Syndrome. Of course, fitting Roberta into his busy life isn't easy, and subsequent events force the entire family to make some difficult decisions.

In the sibling relationship and the road trip Kenny and Roberta take at one point, the film is very reminiscent of Rainman, forcing Roberta's brother to step up to his family responsibilities. But there are other things going here as well, and until the main plot kicks in this is a lively, funny film that realistically blends urban stress with honest humour. So it's a pity that when the main narrative begins it feels overly constructed, full of coincidences and slightly too-clever connections (Roberta is a gifted artist; Kenny's girlfriend, nicely played by Henderson, runs a gallery).

What makes it watchable is the emotional core of the story and people. This is perhaps McKidd's finest performance--energetic and impatient, thoughtful and sexy. And his interaction with each of the other characters is meaningful and involving. Duncan is terrific as their spiky, stubborn mother; and Sage (who actually has Down's) is a real find, delivering an astonishing turn that's both absolutely hilarious and able to connect with us on a deeper level. This human interaction is what makes the film so engaging--and why it has won several festival awards. The characters' inner journeys are compelling and revealing. So if Gibb's script tries far too hard to interconnect them all and put them through the wringer, she can be forgiven.

cert 15 themes, language, adult situations 1.Aug.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall