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Martin I. Petrov

Cine-voyeur. Festival traveller currently based in Glasgow, UK. 

Festival director at WoFF: World of Film International Festival Glasgow. 

Festival Coordinator at MIAFF: Montreal International Animation Film Festival 

Writing reviews, articles and a passionate interview lover. 


Edinburgh FF 2015: The Legend of Barney Thomson (Review)


Barney is a humble mid-aged barber living in a quiet Glasgow neighbourhood. Day by day his life becomes more and more meaningless. Until the pair of scissors that’s become an extension to his hand, accidentally becomes a weapon that transforms him into the man everyone is looking for. 

Based on Douglas Lindsay’s The long midnight of Barney Thomson, actor Robert Carlyle’s directorial debut is hilarious, amusing and utterly Scottish. Barney Thomson (Carlyle) cuts hair in a desolate Glasgow neighbourhood and that’s pretty much what he’s capable of. In his fifties, his life is sinking in misery more than his 70-year-old mother’s (Emma Thompson) who throws after funeral parties with her besties, loves to gamble and as a born and bred Scottish enjoys a good fish and chips. 

As tension between Barney and his fellow barbers grows because of his inadequacy to keep up with the clientele, he is given a month notice. In the course of the argument, Barney accidentally kills one of the young barber brothers and in an attempt to hide the body he abandons it at his mother’s apartment. When the police investigation, led by a power-thirsty naive female, who competes with a ‘Starski and Hutch’-like duo, connects the Barber shop murder with a serial killer activity in town, Barney’s facing more serious danger. 

In a more humorous approach of the Sweeney Todd story, Carlyle’s black comedy delivers a thorough character portrayal in an urban background that only a Scottish filmmaker could so lively depict. The in-focus details of Barney’s relationship with his mother give the story a much needed push and Emma Thompson is glorious in her performance. 

A mouse and cat hunt, The legend of Barney Thomson has a great deal of the Coen bros’ surreal black humour, some bits of it reminding so much of Burn after reading. Carlyle is taken by the precision, which is eliminating the visual surprises, although his scenes are breathing, quite open and inviting. He insists on the Glaswegian reality, and with weapon the surreal element gives the entertaining side of a less funny social problem, cored deeply in the lower class’ body. 

Co-production between Canada and Scotland, the film proves the ability that local filmmaking can go beyond light-hearted folklore comedies and put on the film map the country that heads the list with best filming locations. Carlyle’s debut as a director is colourful and sharp, guaranteed fun for the genre lovers, even if some of them might be in need of subtitles.

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About Martin I. Petrov