Will They Sink or Swim? Waterboys, a Movie Review

31 Jan


By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

  • Spoiler Alert

The Celtic folk-rock band The Waterboys formed in 1983, and to discover a film called Waterboys to highlight this band’s musical legacy got me excited. Listening to this style of music lifts my spirit. From The Paperboys (a Vancouver band) to Wolfstone, the gambit is slightly restricted in what’s available for me discover locally in record stores instead of regularly ordering online. I prefer physical over digital. Plus, my town is home to the Highland Games and Celtic Festival (well past 150+ years!) and the community is large.

The fact this movie is set to music is important. Those “high roads and low roads of Scotland” also define part of the life of novelist Victor (Leopold Witte). Because this film originally released in 2016, I was able to find it via online streaming services and not rely on a local film festival to see it. I thank them for making me aware of this product but to watch it on the big screen is not worth an expensive bottle of whiskey. This film is enjoyable, a great father-son cum road trip tale. Plus, the afterparty did not promise any haggis. I’m better off going to The Orr family Butcher to buy and afterward, take the long road to Sidney, BC to view at Star Cinema — assuming a few tickets are still available.

The visual beauty of Scotland and Edinburgh is brought to the fore in this film. Director Robert Jan Westdijk rekindled my interest in this country by having the protagonist wander the capital. Witte is great at being conveying a huge sense of wonder. When we see the Highlands proper, the pristine state is certainly different from what I recall in past films like Braveheart and Highlander.

The story about reforging family bonds is always good to explore. When the film begins showing Victor looking very much alone in his home. He calls his musician son, Zack (Tim Linde), perhaps to figure out his life. When he’s still a party animal in his middle age, not even his progeny has answers. The wife simply wants him out. But the young man has his own problems. He got dumped too and evicted. The younger needs a place to stay. They do not have an easy relationship as they constantly bicker. But when the elder is required to go to Scotland to promote his latest book, he takes the lad along to try to reconcile.

267px The Waterboys in Antwerp 2003 5

The Waterboys performing in Antwerp in 2003. L–R: Mike Scott, Geoff Dugmore, Steve Wickham and Brad Waissman. (Wikipedia)

We soon learn why the band is important. They both grew up listening to Waterboys music and it’s helped them bond. Victor’s vigor is brought to life when they are at this band’s concert. When the senior realizes the deeper meaning behind the lyrics Mike Scott wrote in songs like “A Christ In You” and “Long Strange Golden Road,” he breaks down.

It would be ironic if an extended cut of the movie included, ‘the Thrill is Gone,” a song made popular by B.B. King. This song by this name is in the band’s album, but it is not the same as the blues tune. It’s played with “The Healing Has Begun” (The Youtube clip can be seen here.) and that’s how this film differs. This pairing can be heard on the live album The Live Adventures of the Waterboys (1998)

Music has that impact on people. I simply found this film very relatable and palpable. Victor and Zack could go back to their past love to say, “We Can Work It Out,” like a certain Beatles song … or simply look ahead for a better future as the final track, “This is the Sea” suggests. At least with this film, it’s funny to watch them go after the same Bonnie Lass who is in charge of making their stay on Scotland a good one.

4 Kilts out of 5

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