Out on DVD/VoD today, Tony Cross headed for a safe harbour and watched We Are Boats...
Lives intertwine and connect when Francesca navigates through the living world by encountering strangers at the exact moment she needs to, sending their lives on either a better course towards happiness or setting the wheels in motion towards a tragic end - all while she secretly searches for a loved one that she never had the chance to say goodbye to.
There was a point in the early part of this James Bird directed film that I thought we were looking at a glorified, slightly pretentious version of something like ‘Saved by An Angel’. Perhaps because I was watching it on the small screen, which made it hard to judge the quality of the cinematography fair, it had that ‘made for television’ feel about it.
But as it developed, and characters began to twist in and out of each other’s stories, it turned into something gloriously uncynical and moving. There were elements of Jim Jarmusch, a little hint of ‘Wings of Desire’ and perhaps – buried down there somewhere – a little bit of ‘A Matter of Life and Death’. It’s not as good a film as the latter, but it has something about it.
Angela Sarafyan plays Francesca. She is an angel of sorts. Sent to Earth she either helps people to die or gives them a reason to live. Sarafyan’s performance is the strong centre of a film with several good performances. She has a certain doleful quality and distance that seems right for that kind of part. She underplays things, which I like in an actor.
There are good performances though from Luke Hemsworth, Graham Greene, Uzo Aduba, Jack Falahee, Justin Cornwall, Gaia Weiss and, perhaps my favourite of the lot, Adriana Mather as Ryan. Ryan’s story is the one with the most turns and twists, although one of them was perfectly obvious to everyone who is going to watch this film, but it still managed to pack an emotional punch.
Most people in this film are struggling with something. Most people are trying to make the best of it. Some of them are trying to make up for things that they’ve failed to do. And it’s about living and dying. It’s about the choices we make and the mistakes. It’s about how we make up for them. But most importantly it’s about love.
Now, perhaps it's because someone I know has died recently. A person who died too young. So, selfishly perhaps, mortality has been on my mind. And it seems to me – and this film sort of deals with this – that the best you can do is try to be a good person. We all make mistakes. We all say the wrong thing. We all have regrets. But it is how you deal with these things that matters. That you’re remembered not for what you own but what you do for others and the content of our character.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about this film is that it is distinctly lacking in cynicism. This is a film that could have come out of a whole different era of film making. Indeed, the most cynical character in this film, Luke Hemsworth’s Lucas, is the…and then there’s the realization that this might be a spoiler.
It should also be noted that the film is also highly unusual for other reasons. The cast is 50% female, 41% people of colour. The crew is 45% women. For example, Uzo Aduba’s part is the sort of role that in 99% of these kinds of films would be given to an old white man. You both notice it and don’t. It does give the film a slightly different feel, which is to be applauded.
It’s a fine film this, which I enjoyed more than I expected I would, based on the first part of the film and I applaud anything that in our current world takes a hard look at a difficult world and tries to produce something that doesn’t get bogged down in cynicism and bitter irony. I suspect that might be why some people might hate it.* I think it would make an interesting – and very weird – double bill with ‘Sorry to Bother You’. **
*I suspect if this was a foreign language film it would end up being a cult classic.
**That might just be me though.
Follow Tony on Twitter @Lokster71
Image & synopsis - Zombot Pictures