Another year, another highly underwhelming people’s gala for the film festival. Following on from last year’s dreadful drama, The Parting Glass, this year we have Balance, Not Symmetry. Another film from Jamie Adams, the director known for his speedy output and improvised scenes and this is no exception. This is a rushed out melodramatic drama about art, grief and friendship that never quite nails down what it’s trying to say and the overall feel is particularly disjointed.
The film follows Caitlin, played by Laura Harrier (Liz in Spider-Man: Homecoming) an American with a Scottish mother, a dead father a major passion for painting. It is safe to say that her improvisational skills need some work as her scenes opposite Bria Vinaite (The Florida Project) are not great. You can almost hear their brains working to make up something to say that follows the guidance of the scene. It usually comes across as an incredibly awkward interaction even when the scene is supposed to be quite moving, particularly evident in scenes with pros like Kate Dickie where she acts the hell out of scene only for Harrier to stumble on through it next to her.
Some of Adams’ films have a kind of gimmick to them. For instance, last year’s Songbird starring Cobie Smulders was shot in the space of two weeks on a college campus. A cool thing to do. However, this one goes for something that on paper, should be much simpler and in the end is much more dangerous, let Scottish rock group Biffy Clyro provide the soundtrack to the film. It works to an extent. They made what looks to be an entire album specifically for the film but not all of the songs match where they’ve been used. It can lead to a disjointed scene or just in some cases more awkward moments. There is a scene quite early on that show people dancing to the music of Biffy Clyro but the music is clearly not the finished product so they’re all moving out of time. An even worse one at the very end of the film where the emotional climax is taking place, an upbeat and cheery song (one of the most upbeat and cheery of the film) plays while Harrier’s character stares at the grave of her dead father. You also really have to be a fan of their music to get any joy out of it because for the majority I felt it was just loud guitars and someone shouting in an accent.
The film is a bit of a mess and I never really understand how Adams’ films get picked for the line-up particularly the people’s gala. It just feels like an awkward farce with the amount of American’s walking around Glasgow shouting about art and dealing with their weird issues. The improvisation is not great in the hands of people who don’t really know what they’re doing but the worst part overall is the Biffy Clyro soundtrack. It feels as if there was no communication in the collaboration. Each party went off to do their own thing and returned with their respective finished products and tried their hardest to merge them together. In the end, your left with something that isn’t enjoyable and sometimes painful to watch.