Film & TV

The Vanishing (2018)

Three lighthouse keepers on the remote Flannan Isles find a hidden trunk of gold, leading to their mysterious disappearance.

The Vanishing (2018) – IMDb

I came across this movie in a Facebook Scottish Filmmakers group and was looking forward to it. ‘Lighthouse keepers on an isolated Scottish island battling greed and paranoia’ sounded like a perfect rainy day film!

It’s a shame, the movie never hit the cinemas near me – not enough demand I suppose. In the meantime, The Lighthouse (2019) by Robert Eggers, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, gained popularity and media attention. Both movies share common themes – lighthouse on an island, period piece, psychological thriller, paranoia, madness, dead birds, storm, etc. – the list is long!

I finally got the opportunity and watched The Vanishing on Now TV (Sky Cinema). I enjoyed the atmospheric look of the film and the mood that it emanated. Living in Scotland and having visited a few remote islands and lighthouses, I was able appreciate the realism portrayed in the movie.

The story is an analysis of human nature. James (Gerard Butler), Thomas (Peter Mullan), and Donald (Connor Swindells) come from harsh backgrounds. Life in 1900’s remote Scotland must have been tough. Struggling for money, dealing with grief, and socially rejected, the lighthouse island is probably the only place they attain reprieve. This is demonstrated through sunny and happy scenes early on in the story.

Can a glimpse of happiness last in the depth of misery? In this story, it leads to bad decisions being made, and the effects culminating in multiple deaths and trauma.

It was refreshing to see Gerard Butler performing, well, in a grounded role. Looking at his Rotten Tomatoes profile, only 10 of his films score about 60% and The Vanishing is at position seven!

Peter Mullan, goes without saying, is one of the best actors of our times. His talent should get more credit. He delivers with ease. Probably the only character who has got nothing to lose in the story, his is also the only character to survive and carry away the weight of sadness.

I read about the mysterious disappearance of the lighthouse keepers on the Flannan Isles prior to watching this movie. The real life story / mystery gave context to the movie. I could see why certain things were happening in the film and the potential reasoning behind them. I’m not sure that would be the case for someone watching the movie without background information. Maybe there was a text slide at the start of the movie, but the director Kristoffer Nyholm and writers Celyn Jones and Joe Bone could have added a text slide at the end of the movie. It was a bit of an abrupt and sudden ending to see the demise of Gerard Butler’s character.

The movie has the heart in the right place. There are a couple of emotional beats along the story, although not strong enough to leave the audience stunned. I was left wanting more.

Watch it on a grim and rainy day.

This film review is the first of my ‘Movies During the COVID-19 Lockdown’ series. Stay tuned and come back for more as I document some of the powerful movies that I’ve watched in the past couple of months.

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