I had a great night last night. Braving trains, taxis and troublesome tram works MBH and I enjoyed a night at the Edinburgh Film Festival. The Day of the Flowers is about family and friendship. It’s about love and death, truth and lies, about revolution and evolution.
At this point, it’s only fair that I raise a bias alert. In 2001, I took the leap from studying in campus safe Stirling to Glasgow. Landing on my feet, I took up residence with Eirene Houston – second cousin of my mother, scriptwriter, raconteur and thrower of some of the finest parties known to the west end of Glasgow (which says a lot). I stayed for seven happy if sometimes difficult, often chaotic, never knowingly unexciting years.
During these years and since, I’ve heard a lot about the film, about the script, the casting, the politics of getting a film about Cuba made in Cuba. So I was thrilled to see it, and to toast Eirene and director John Roberts‘ perseverance and achievement.
If there was one thing I would have liked, it would be more Glasgow. The film starts here with sisters Rosa and Ailie rescuing their dead father from being made into a golf trophy by their stepmother. It’s funny, and sets the Glaswegian perspective through which we are shown Cuba.
There are certain factors which make the film work for me. And it really does.
In other reviews, Rosa has been described as “a headstrong idealist”. And that much they’ve managed to get right. I like headstrong idealists. I like seeing them on my cinema screens. All too often they are a vehicle for people who don’t want us to be headstrong idealists to tell us that headstrong idealists are naiive. This doesn’t happen in The Day of the Flowers, which is refreshing. There is a lot of Eirene in Rosa, and she’s beautifully played by Eva Birthistle. The story of her relationship with her sister, and the discoveries both make about their parents offer a compelling, human story.
Carlos Acosta is a star. That’s not an opinion, he just is. A global dance sensation, this is his first big role in a feature film. The first of many, by the looks of things. His Tomas is a modern Cuban, who has toured the world and returned to his homeland to educate young and old. He takes the girls (especially Rosa who needs it most) under his wing. His performance has that thing you only know when you see it – an apparent effortlessness which is achieved through talent and professionalism. I know and love a lot of the music which underpins the film and carries with it the seductive sunshine so beautifully captured. Which brings us to –
Cuba is beautiful. Cuba in The Day of the Flowers is a gift to anyone who loves photography and the moving image. Sunshine seems to flood the sky. We are shown the difference between the big corporate hotels and the Cuba that Cubans live in. Visually stunning, the island also has a rich culture and a history of political independence which really matters. This isn’t a film about politics, but the fact that things are different in Cuba are plain to see, as well as the benefits and costs of that difference. I know I said I wanted more Glasgow, but 80-90 per cent of this film is in Cuba. And I wanted a lot more Cuba.
In the end, film is a way of telling a story. And stories are about people. And what this film is about is that moment when you’re not entirely sure of yourself or your situation, and you’re not entirely sure if you should or you shouldn’t, but you ask if someone if they’d like to dance with you. And they do. And because you did, you never have to wish you had or regret you hadn’t.
If you haven’t, and you can, get yourself down to CineWorld in Edinburgh this Sunday, 1/7/2012. You won’t regret it.