If war is hell then the aftermath is filled with bureaucratic red tape. The indie film ‘A Perfect Day’ helmed by Spanish director Fernando Leon De Aranoa is set “somewhere in the Balkans” circa 1995. It was the scene of ethnic conflicts primarily in Bosnia and Herzegovina that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. The film attempts to illustrate the insanity of war and the chaos that follows such a huge military conflict. The script is based on a novel ‘Dejarse Llover’ by Paula Farias who spent five years as the President of “Doctors without Borders.” ‘A Perfect Day’ is modified to profile the efforts of humanitarian aid workers showcased by a well-acted ensemble cast.
For the most part, the film is engaging and sprinkled with dark humor. The story covers a span of 24-hours when a corpse is discovered in a well, one of the few drinking sources for a nearby village. In order to prevent the water from getting further contaminated, the humanitarian relief organization “Aid Across Borders” led by Mambru (Benicio Del Toro) and accompanied by his translator Damir (Fredja Stukan) try to hoist the fat body out of the well with a rope. The frayed rope snaps and the corpse falls back into the well. The scene perfectly depicts the aid workers attempts to do the right thing and try to restore some semblance of order in the region. The language barrier adds to the frustration of the aid workers as Damir amusingly takes a backseat before stepping in with much-needed translation.
Besides Del Toro’s solid performance, there is his gonzo sidekick B (played for laughs by Tim Robbins), the idealistic newcomer Sophie (Melanie Thierry) and a U.N. official Katya (Olga Kurylenko). This rag-tag crew speeds off in Land Rovers going from one war-torn village to the next looking for rope to get the smelly corpse out of the well before it poisons the precious water supply. The ensemble cast is amusing. Del Toro plays the macho lead reminiscent of Robert Mitchum films. Robbins is good as the crazy American worker that gets an adrenaline rush from the danger and scares the newbie Sophie. One of the funniest scenes is when B and Sophie come across a dead cow on a road that could possibly be booby-trapped with a landmine.
The pacing of the action is backed by an edgy rock soundtrack including The Buzzcocks, The Ramones, The Velvet Underground and Marilyn Manson. To break up the absurdities of war, there is a subplot of an orphaned boy that Mambru helps to find his soccer ball. There is also playful banter between Mambru and his ex-lover Katya. B jokes about the Russian hottie, “Where did you get her? Models Without Borders?” She is actually tasked to do an assessment for the U.N. whether it is feasible for the aid relief to continue in the region now that the war is technically over. B tries to coax Mambru to have one last romp with Katya before heading back home. He hesitates believing that he’s ready to settle down with his current girlfriend.
The film was shot in areas of Spain to resemble the rocky landscapes of the Balkans. The cinematography is crisply displayed by Alex Catalan. Although the story has its share of uneven moments, the strong acting from Del Toro and Robbins effectively moves the story forward. You get the sense of the futility and disorganization of war that the aid workers face on a daily basis. They confront roadblocks from U.N. peacekeepers but in the end always try to do the right thing for the locals innocently caught in the middle of the war zone. Check out the official IFC Films trailer https://youtu.be/IhOkdEdEpX4.