5 October 2017 | yannsicamois
An intense and surprising crime drama from Scotland
Isolani may be seen by many as R. Paul Wilson's first film as it's the first to attract so much interest outside of Scotland. In fact it's his fourth film, following a lovely award-winning short film called 'The Magic Box', which has been viewed more than six hundred thousand times on YouTube; 'Our Magic' a documentary about the art of Magic that has become an important and inspiring reference for illusionists (while remaining primarily targeted at non-magicians); and Con Men, a clever "grifters versus gangsters" thriller set in Glasgow — both available on Amazon Prime.
The World Premiere of Isolani was during the prestigious Raindance Film Festival (which has been promoting independent filmmaking for 25 years); out of more than 10,000 submissions, the programming team selected around 200 to be screened during the two weeks of the festival with a few films selected for awards. Isolani was nominated for best UK feature, which was ultimately awarded to a more politically aware film but still, being nominated is quite a feat in itself.
A 'crime drama in Glasgow' may be a familiar prospect — you've certainly seen those types of films already before but Isolani is something different.
The story follows Isla, a very young single mother who witnesses a murder and is thrown into a dangerous game she did not ask to be part of, all the while fighting to keep her son safe.
The whole project is rooted in Scotland; filmed in Glasgow over the course of eighteen days on a tiny budget with a cast and crew comprised mostly of Scottish talent.
In terms of strong leading women, Isolani passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. Isla, the protagonist, is played by Kate McLaughlin, a lovely young actress who — like her character — doesn't look her age at all. Kate recently turned 18 but could easily be mistaken for much younger. Catriona Evans plays prosecutor Anne Ramsay, determined to solve the murder of her late informant and proves to be another strong Scottish talent. The tension between these two characters is palpable as is the relationship between Ramsay and the antagonist crooked police detective, Brian Ross played by Jim Sweeney. Meanwhile, violent gangster Tom McKray is played with nerve-racking intensity by Gianni Capaldi.
With the right balance of foreshadowing, the story twists and turns towards a satisfying conclusion and I remained captivated until the end. A creative use of mirrors (always a favourite), a small number of long takes and smart camera angles make Isolani a delight for film-savvy audiences thanks to a fascinating visual style that does not detract from the story.
The score by Reyn Ouwehand fits perfectly, intensifying the action without detracting from it and makes occasional use of a Glasgow-born instrument called a Dulcitone. The film includes a lovely, emotional song that can be heard during the end credits: 'Isolani' was written especially for the film by singer Yori Swart with a beautiful, passionate voice.
"En un mot comme en cent" as we say in my very home country — many many words to say basically one thing: Isolani is a great independent thriller that makes the most of a low budget with strong characters and a compelling story.
Let's hope it gets picked up and distributed in cinemas so a larger audience can see it.