The Movie Waffler Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019 Review - BOYZ IN THE WOOD | The Movie Waffler

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Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019 Review - BOYZ IN THE WOOD

boyz in the wood review
A quartet of Scottish boys fall foul of hip-hop loving farmers, bloodthirsty aristocrats and hallucinogenic rabbit shit.

Review by Blair MacBride

Directed by: Ninian Doff

Starring: Rian Gordon, Viraj Juneja, Lewis Gribben, Samuel Bottomly, Eddie Izzard, Kate Dickie, James Cosmo, Alice Lowe

"Ah didnae do anyhin’ that bad." Translation - "I didn’t do anything that bad."

In what can only be described as the most outlandish film to grace cinema since 2018’s Sorry to Bother You, Boyz in the Wood takes on the mantel of opening the 73rd annual edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

While at times the movie breaches the realms of sanity, Ninian Doff’s comedy-horror hilariously triumphs as his debut feature. The film is set deep in the Scottish Highlands and is centred around a group of three misfits - Dean (Rian Gordon); DJ Beatroot (Viraj Juneja); and Duncan (Lewis Gribben) - who befriend a good egg (Ian - Samuel Bottomly).

boyz in the wood review

Apart from Ian, who looks to bulk up his CV with extra-curricular activities, the group attempt to complete their Duke of Edinburgh Award* as a punishment for abhorrent school behaviour. Along the way, however, events take an almost incomprehensible turn as their journey to earn their award becomes filled with wackiness, hip-hop loving farmers, "hallucinogenic rabbit shit," and a battle of survival against blood thirsty aristocrats.

With the mystifyingly odd yet brilliant plot aside, the unlikely rag-tag quartet shine through as they take their centre-stage roles of the feature. Just as for their director, Boyz in the Wood is collectively their first feature film venture too. That said, Gordon, Juneja, Gribben and Bottomly offer stellar performances in their introductory foray into cinema. The four not only share a surplus of humorous dialogue, but also a chemistry which is reminiscent of that created by the foursome in the cult classic Stand by Me. Although the story is notably different in almost every way, crazy scripts such as these rely on strong leads to propel them out of mediocrity and into the memorable - this quartet undeniably succeeds in fulfilling that duty.

boyz in the wood review

The movie’s small cluster of established stars adds a significant depth to this indie as well. James Cosmo plays the principal hip-hop loving farmer, while Eddie Izzard’s ‘The Duke’ and Georgie Glen’s portrayal of his on-screen wife, ‘The Duchess’, make for an amusingly creepy duo of antagonists. Kevin Guthrie, too, is hysterical as the misfortunate PC Hamish. Throughout Boyz in the Wood, each of these actors makes clear their spirit to get on board with the eccentricity of the plot, which, in turn, gives the entire film an effective cohesiveness and continuity of laughter that may otherwise have been missing without them.

At the same time, Doff’s entertaining yet bonkers script is the real backbone of this feature. To those non-Scots who give this film a go, some sequences might be more than difficult to verbally understand, with the combination of quickly spoken Scottish slang and muffled dialogue. Indeed, the film’s concept itself is unequivocally berserk. Nonetheless, Doff’s witty writing and effective direction enables you to simply relax into your seat. The script has a well-balanced story, is paced to perfection with an effective build from beginning to end, and succeeds at delivering the right degree of both humour and horror.

boyz in the wood review

Wonderfully comical at times, difficult to fathom at others, Boyz in the Wood acts as a refreshing change in the trend of inaugural films of the EIFF in recent years. Although it may be an utterly distinctive category of film to that of its predecessors, it should still be given the credit it deserves as a hilariously unique shock to the system. One thing is certain though; do not expect a run of the mill film. On the contrary, be prepared to tap into your wilder side of cinematic adventurism.

*The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a youth awards programme founded in the UK in 1956 by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The award recognises young people for completing a series of self-improvement exercises.

A UK/ROI release for Boyz in the Wood has yet to be announced.

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