Bodkin Ras

Set in a remote Scottish town, Bodkin Ras is a 21st century reimagining of the stranger in a foreign land concept. In this case, the stranger is the eponymous Bodkin (Sohrab Bayat), a mysterious young man with a past and little desire for conversation. When he turns up in Forres one night, the locals are immediately suspicious of him; after all, he doesn’t look, sound or act like anyone else in their small community. Soon however, a small group of locals led by builder Eddie bring him into their fold. While their fold’s activities mostly consist of drinking in The Eagle, their favourite pub, Eddie does give Bodkin a job, helping him build fences in the town. Bodkin also meets Lily, a girl who shares Bodkin’s sense of alienation from the people of Forres, and the two strike up a relationship.

Director Kaweh Modiri, in just his first feature length film, attempts to do something very technical and very challenging with Bodkin Ras, by blending the real and the fictional, the documentary and the drama. The people of Forres, including Eddie as well as others such as James Macmillan, exist and live as they are presented in Modiri’s film. The sections which explore these ordinary people’s own lives and histories are the most moving and fascinating parts of the film, but Modiri then has them react to and comment upon their relationship with Bodkin, and the whole thing begins to fall apart. From a lack of clarity in what exactly has been invented, which makes some of the emotional payoff feel occasionally manipulative, to the disjointed connection between real people and the fantasy that is Bodkin, serves only to confuse and to fragment an otherwise interesting story.

Macmillan, also known as Red James, narrates the film and it is through his prosaic account of both Forres’ history, which is also recounted on a number of occasions in the drunken ramblings of a man performing to an imaginary crowd in a small street beside The Eagle, and his own that the connection between reality and fiction works most cohesively. His tales of having been in prison for crimes the audience never really understands the full extent of run parallel to the flashbacks and hints that are given as to the past actions of Bodkin. These two parallel lives, one real and one imagined, meet at the realisation that everyone has something in their past which they wish to keep hidden, everyone has a part of themselves of which they are a little ashamed. Here, Modiri has the kernel of a fascinating insight into human behaviour and thought, but sadly it is lost in the incoherence of the narrative.

★★★
Tim Abrams
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