EIFF 2017: Waterboys Review

A crime writer and his son - both reeling from failed relationships - reconnect on a trip to Edinburgh in this poignant Dutch comedy drama.

With only one song that really bothered the charts, you’d be forgiven for not being overly familiar with Scottish folk rock band The Waterboys. It’s surprising then to find them at the centre of a Dutch comedy drama about a father and son mending their strained relationship on a trip to Edinburgh, but Robert Jan Westdijk’s Waterboys is a poignant gem that makes great use of both its location and its titular band’s music.

Victor (Leopold Witte) is a successful crime writer in his native Holland, but it’s been a while since any of his books have made a splash abroad. His latest however is set in Edinburgh and as such, he’s being flown over to the Scottish capital for a publicity tour. The only problem is, his wife has decided to leave him on the eve of the trip, complicating matters for both Victor and his son Zack (Tim Linde). Zack has just been kicked out by his girlfriend and needs somewhere to stay, but with his mother disappearing, he has to turn to his father.

Zack is a serious, passionate guy who takes everything to heart, with a past history of depression and attempted suicide. He wants to pursue a career as a cellist but his anxiety is so crippling, he wears a wrist brace as an excuse not to perform. This is in stark contrast to his rakish father who treats everything as a joke and can’t stop flirting with every woman in his vicinity. But with a broken heart and nowhere else to go, Zack tags along on his father’s trip and along the way learns more about his parents’ relationship.

The film is in many ways a double coming-of-age story, with both men reaching different levels of maturity. Victor is forced to confront past mistakes that have left him lonely and desperate in middle-age and Zack must find a way to get over his failed relationship and overcome his anxiety. As luck would have it, both men find local women to take their mind off their troubles at home: Victor enjoys spiky banter with his spirited PR manager Rhona (Helen Belbin) and Zack strikes up a sweet relationship with Lindsay (Julie McLellan), a young waitress at their hotel.

Set to a soundtrack of The Waterboys’ music – from their biggest hit The Whole of the Moon to a few deeper cuts – Westdijk’s film blends warm humour with more tender, moving moments. On the surface, it’s a charming and easy-going comedy but it’s all underpinned by some genuine emotion that comes to a head during a live performance by the titular band. It’s a thoughtful film that’s insightful about the relationship between fathers and their grown sons, as well as aging and coming to appreciate what you have in life.

With engaging lead performances, a refreshing soundtrack and a stunning setting – Westdijk makes use of Edinburgh’s best landmarks, as well as some lesser known spots – Waterboys is a warm and charming film of deceptive depth.

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