Combustible Celluloid
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With: Benicio Del Toro, Tim Robbins, Olga Kurylenko, Mélanie Thierry, Fedja Stukan, Eldar Residovic, Sergio López, Nenad Vukelic
Written by: Fernando León de Aranoa, Diego Farias, based on a novel by Paula Farias
Directed by: Fernando León de Aranoa
MPAA Rating: R for language including some sexual references
Running Time: 106
Date: 01/15/2016

A Perfect Day (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Aid Runners

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This low-key drama is at its best when it paints a picture of a specific place and time, and a culture of expats at work. It then avoids overt hysteria as well as punishing horrors-of-war messages. A Perfect Day isn't necessarily a great movie; there's not much at stake, and humor is sparse, and it can't help feeling a little heavy from time to time, but thanks to its compressed time frame (just 24 hours) and its strong performances, it's quite interesting.

In the Balkans in 1995, a group of aid workers, including Mambru (Benicio Del Toro), "B" (Tim Robbins), and Sophie (Melanie Thierry), do their best to pitch in. Local translator Damir (Fedja Stukan) helps. Today's task is to remove a grossly overweight corpse from a village well, but when their old rope breaks, they must embark upon what turns into a day-long odyssey around the country in an attempt to finish the job. To complicate matters, Mambru's ex-lover Katya (Olga Kurylenko) joins their number. They also rescue a young boy, Nikola (Eldar Residovic), from a band of gun-wielding teens. Things come to a head when, just before dark, they come upon a trap — possible landmines — in the road. Can this perfect day get any worse?

Spanish director Fernando León de Aranoa (Mondays in the Sun) gives us a snapshot of a certain kind of person, a kind of misfit that doesn't like going home — or even having one — and doing a certain kind of job. The job is horrible, and dangerous, and perhaps not even that rewarding, but there's still a weird kind of exotic allure to it. More so than the horrors of war or the politics of war, it's this job, and these characters, that make the movie work.

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