Donkeys – released in 2010, and winning Best Film at the 2011 BAFTA Scotland Awards – was the second release in a planned trilogy from the Scottish-Danish “Advance Party” collaboration. The first instalment was 2006’s Red Road and characters from that film Stevie (Martin Compston) and Jackie (Kate Dickie) return to play parts in a very different story. Tony Curran’s Clyde from Red Road also makes the most fleeting of cameo appearances.
The most central characters are however old friends Alfred (James Cosmo) and Brian (Brian Pettifer). The film begins with the pair sitting in an empty looking Glasgow Airport, preparing to set off for a new life in Spain, however the plans stall and we soon learn that Alfred is not a well man. He sets out to straighten out parts of his life before it is too late – including trying to reconnect with his daughter Jackie and meeting and getting to know his illegitimate son Stevie, going about the latter in an unconventional way that causes awkwardness for all concerned. James Cosmo – rarely cast as a lead character – is excellent as Alfred, a man who is not a bad guy but displays some incredible stupidity that affects everyone around him.
Donkeys is a fine example of a black comedy – there are some truly touching moments, but a number of hilarious lines. Malaga being described as “basically a warm Pontin’s” and Alfred using the phrase “they get things out” when telling his granddaughter about the birds and the bees are just two of the examples of the humour that features throughout.
A wealth of Glasgow locations all across the city are used in the film, including The Barras market, Queens Park and Anderston – where Alfred’s flat is located.
Fresh from seeing it as part of last year’s Glasgow Film Festival, I posted in February 2013 about Cloud Atlas. That post summed up my positive feelings about the film and I’m pleased to say that I’ve since watched it again and found it equally enjoyable the second time around.
For anyone who hasn’t seen Cloud Atlas I’ll summarise, or rather, not for the first time I’ll rely on the DVD’s blurb to ensure I give an explanation of the plot that’s as clear as possible! “Tom Hanks and Halle Berry lead an all-star cast in interwoven tales as time shifts between past, present and future. As characters reunite from one life to the next, their actions generate consequences…”
Cloud Atlas was filmed in 2011, mainly in Germany, Majorca and the UK, with both Glasgow and Edinburgh being used as filming locations – the latter appearing as a period version of itself at some points.
Glasgow on the other hand took on its most diverse role yet, doubling within the one feature as 1936 Cambridge, 1973 San Francisco and contemporary London.
The brief exterior Cambridge scenes, featuring James D’Arcy as the character Rufus Sixsmith, were filmed on the grounds of the University of Glasgow. The San Francisco scenes had two main hubs where Halle Berry, Keith David and Hugo Weaving filmed scenes: George Street, where the building housing a Premier Inn hotel appeared as the apartment block where Berry’s Luisa Rey lived; and in the Anderston area, particularly on Douglas Street, where the three actors were involved in a dramatic car crash and shoot out scene. Here, CGI was used to cleverly replace the south east of Glasgow with San Francisco Bay – including the Bay Bridge – on the horizon. During one of the segments of the film set in present day London, Jim Broadbent’s Timothy Cavendish is seen to emerge from a building – used here as an exclusive menswear store – on St. Vincent Street. A night-time St. Vincent Lane also appears when a minor character meets a violent end during one other London scene. Finally, Jim Broadbent is seen visiting a red sandstone villa on more than one occasion in the film – this looks undoubtedly like it is in the south side of Glasgow however I have been unable to find any conclusive confirmation of this. Any comments that can clarify this point would be most welcome.