My Ain Folk

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

Parallels, precedents and subsequents come to mind here. These faces and spaces have a dreadful authority, suggesting a (much more!) dour version of Jean Rouch’s Cinema Direct, as well as all of those Flaherty-like films in which fiction and reality ambiguously and richly interact. This is typage, too, resembling the Soviet version in which half of the acting and affect come through the conflict of volumes and glances and the juxtaposition of images. Also Soviet-like is the independence and sufficiency of each expert composition. In this My Ain Folk also resembles the chaste severity of post-Pickpocket Robert Bresson. As mentioned before, Terrence Davies was obviously inspired, adapting Douglas’s methods, continuing on with his oppressive settings and eloquently inexpressive children.

For all of that Douglas is also, clearly, his own man. The autobiographical elements are man born unto trouble as the sparks fly upwards, but they are also individual and full of painful authenticity. The desperate Scottishness of this endeavour also makes it unique. If this is the case, since this was the case, the Kailyard School really does emerge as a betrayal, and British cinema’s later four-lettered explosions of kitchen sink naturalism (or of Carnaby indulgence, or of gender outlandishness, or of Roeg-like depravity, etc., etc.) become very understandable, if not always justifiable. To urge another apt connection, Robert Burns’ “The Cotter’s Saturday Night” isn’t a fair reflection of this kind of life, and it isn’t much of a consolation either.

(To be fair, Burns more than covered the other side of this particular street. Kailyard? I am now pleased to introduce you to my Alma Mater:

The directorial and dramatic strategy of the film is quite challenging, and quite right. We know exactly what our benighted protagonist knows, and so we don’t know much. The causes to these dire effects—though there are moments in which that fire actually warms, or the terrible grandma’s face softens for a moment—are here in the vicinity. We just can’t quite understand them, because no one will talk about them, and so we can never address them. It’s Jack London and Emile Zola both; we’re determined by heredity and environment, but it’s also the primordial, elemental way of the world. The second entry in a trilogy …