Scottish actor Peter Mullan (My Name Is Joe) has a squinty face like Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name and a voice like coarse sandpaper studded with diamonds. He always seems poised to erupt in gloriously cinematic fury. Alas, in this damp, smelly pool towel of a flick by first-time—and let's hope last-time— director Gaby Dallal, he does no such thing. He plays a laid-off shipbuilder in Glasgow, mired in inarticulate grief for the son he lost at age 7 in a swimming accident, mysteriously estranged from his surviving son (Jamie Sives), now grown. He deals with unemployment by heroically training to swim the English Channel under the tutelage of a low-rent restaurateur (Benedict Wong), cheered on by his unemployed pub pals (including Billy Boyd, who looks even more hobbity in swim trunks than he does with funny ears).
Mullan (second from left) eyes the Channel ahead.
Fans of Billy Elliott, The Full Monty, Calendar Girls, and Waking Ned Devine may indeed enjoy the schmaltzy Glaswegian gemütlichkeit of Day—the old-fart fart jokes, the saggy-butt male bonding, the village eccentric named Merv the Perv, the tired aspirational cheerleading, the folksy spiritual uplift, the foregone family reconciliation. Yet I don't see how even Brit-flick loyalists could fail to be appalled by the criminal waste of Brenda Blethyn's considerable talent in the part of Mullan's wife, who aspires to be a bus driver.
We get no clear explanation of how the lost son died, or why the surviving son and Mullan can't get along, or what it is about the Channel dip that causes the family to reconcile. Given the impressive cast, no matter their pathetic parts, some viewers will find the film cute as a puppy. But if I got a mutt as mangy as this movie, I'd drown it.