(Screened at the 2013 Raindance Film Festival)
“Wayland’s Song” is the latest offering from Scottish director writer Richard Jobson, best known for grim, often violent tales such as “16 Years of Alcohol” and “New Town Killers”, as well as for being the frontman for punk band The Skids. The film sees him returning to familiar themes of soul searching and gritty, brutal realism, with Michael Nardone (“Intruders”) as the titular Wayland, a soldier who returns from Afghanistan, tormented by visions and fits from his experiences in battle and searching for his missing daughter after receiving a worrying message from her. Starting off with her druggy friends, he starts working his way closer to the unpleasant truth, having to deal with faces from his past, including a scheming detective (Brit television actor Alan McKenna) and the unbalanced wife he left behind a few years back.
While there’s no doubting that Richard Jobson is a director of talent, and that he’s a man with a real desire to tell unflinching stories with an indie sensibility, the problem with “Wayland’s Song” is that it’s simply too familiar. As should be pretty obvious from the synopsis, the film is a fairly basic revenge thriller, whose narrative, plot twists and ending are only too obvious from the start, and Jobson really doesn’t do much to diverge from or subvert the usual formula – the film progresses exactly as expected, with stoic hardman Wayland moving from scumbag to scumbag, each giving him the next piece of what isn’t much of a puzzle. Of course, there’s always something to be said for a downbeat, lo-fi approach, though here the film seems to be deliberately avoiding anything too interesting, unambitiously meandering towards the most generic destination possible.
Though Jobson does manage to wring some tension from the scenario, and to his credit does attempt to add some depth to his characters, there’s simply nothing here that hasn’t been seen far too many times before, and nothing substantial or involving enough to grip. Partly this is also due to a script which veers from profound obscurities to cheap shots, plus variable performances from the supporting cast, all of which similarly reduces viewer involvement and interest. To be fair, Michael Nardone does a serviceable job in a thankless lead role, and it’s not really his fault that his dull quest never takes flight.
On the plus side, Jobson directs with some artistic flair, showing his trademark effective uses of colour and lighting. The look of the film was apparently inspired by graphic novels, and it does achieve this fairly successfully, with a dingily atmospheric feel that suitably reflects the mood and themes. Jobson definitely has a knack for capturing the feel of the streets and of the darker echelons of society, and the film is certainly more realistic and believable than most revenge thrillers. Not that this particularly improves matters, since Jobson also feels the need to frequently undermine himself through the use of rather obvious symbolism and needless scenes of flashing lights to represent Wayland’s wartime trauma. A painfully slow pace similarly doesn’t help, and the film feels much longer than its hour and a half running time, even with the odd burst of violence here and there, and with Jobson showing a penchant for long, meaningful takes and image blurring, it at times becomes a bit of a chore to watch.
This is definitely a shame, and to be fair, “Wayland’s Song” might well have more mileage for viewers who haven’t seen a revenge thriller in the last few years. However, for the most part, it’s a sadly unoriginal and sluggish film which doesn’t see Richard Jobson putting his undeniable talents to their best use.
Richard Jobson (director) / Richard Jobson (screenplay)
CAST: Michael Nardone … Wayland
Alan McKenna … Detective A. Jones
Ross Daniel Anderson … Marco
Orla Brady … Grace
Rob James-Collier … John
Simone Lahbib … June
Hannah Lederer … Natalie
Rosalina Lionetti … Kirsty