EIFF 2015: The Legend of Barney Thomson

Film Review by Josh Slater-Williams | 17 Jun 2015
Film title: The Legend of Barney Thomson
Director: Robert Carlyle
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Ray Winstone, Tom Courtenay, Ashley Jensen, Martin Compston, Kevin Guthrie, Brian Pettifer, James Cosmo, Samuel Robertson, Stephen McCole
Release date: 24 Jul
Certificate: TBC

Fifty-something barber Barney Thomson (Robert Carlyle, playing the lead in his directorial debut) lives a life of desperate mundanity and awkward interactions, be they with unappreciative customers, colleagues who think he looks like “a haunted tree”, or his fierce, foul-mouthed mother (played with relish by Emma Thompson, whose elderly make-up somewhat recalls Tilda Swinton in The Grand Budapest Hotel).

Things take a drastic turn when he accidentally kills someone, especially when one exasperated policeman (Ray Winstone, in a performance perfectly pitched halfway between his bet365 ad work and Nil by Mouth) believes this new missing person case is directly linked to a known serial killer. And then even more bodies pile up at Barney’s end.

Making vivid use of its Glasgow location and culture, The Legend of Barney Thomson has many dark comedy moments that work, and Carlyle shows some strong directorial chops. It’s when the script veers into attempted pathos late in the game that things start to flounder, and a Grand Guignol, Reservoir Dogs-esque climax is a tonal misfire.

The Legend of Barney Thomson opens Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015 and is reeled in UK cinemas 24 Jul by Icon Film Distribution http://www.edfilmfest.org.uk/films/2015/the-legend-of-barney-thomson