A Perfect Day

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
A Perfect Day Movie Poster Image
Edgy drama follows aid workers in Balkan war zone.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 106 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Subtly promotes the idea of aid workers helping others, even if the message is a little muddled. The characters are, on the whole, trying to help others, but their reasons appear to be somewhat selfish.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though the characters are aid workers, they're a little cynical, selfish, and hardened, and they don't really inspire others to follow. They're more involved with the mundane details of a day of work than with the bigger picture, i.e. helping people. They drink, swear, and think/talk about sex.

Violence

Bloated dead body shown floating in a well; various other bodies shown -- hanged, etc. Dead cows in road. Some blood shown. Car accidentally runs into a kid in the street (he's OK). Teen boy with a gun. A vicious dog is given drugged meat. Prisoners of war are shown. Small wound on finger. Loud punk music.

Sex

Characters talking about having sex; not too graphic. Mention of "hookers."

Language

Sporadic uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Also "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink whiskey in one scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Perfect Day is a drama about aid workers in the Balkans in 1995. Though the country is a war zone, violence is more hinted at than shown. The worst is a dead, bloated body in a well (the characters spend the entire movie trying to get it out). A hanged corpse is also briefly shown, dead cows in the road are potentially used to hide land mines, and a teen boy brandishes a gun. Language is strong ("f--k," "s--t") but infrequent; characters also talk about sex, but it's nothing too graphic, and they drink whiskey in one sequence. Though the movie is about aid workers, it doesn't really encourage viewers to choose the same path; the characters seem burnt out, doing the job more to avoid things than to help out. Still, the portrait the film paints is an interesting one.

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What's the story?

In the Balkans in 1995, a group of aid workers -- including Mambru (Benicio Del Toro), "B" (Tim Robbins), and Sophie (Melanie Thierry) -- do their best to pitch in. Local translator Damir (Fedja Stukan) helps. Today's task is to remove a grossly overweight corpse from a village well, but when their old rope breaks, they embark upon what turns into a day-long odyssey around the country in an attempt to finish the job. To complicate matters, Mambru's ex-lover, Katya (Olga Kurylenko), joins the group -- and they also rescue a young boy, Nikola (Eldar Residovic), from a band of gun-wielding teens. Things come to a head when, just before dark, they come upon a trap -- possible land mines -- in the road. Can this perfect day get any worse?

Is it any good?

This low-key drama is at its best when it paints a picture of a specific place and time and a culture of expats at work; it avoids overt hysteria as well as punishing horrors-of-war messages. A PERFECT DAY isn't necessarily a great movie -- there's not much at stake, humor is sparse, and it can't help feeling a little heavy from time to time -- but thanks to its compressed time frame (just 24 hours) and the cast's strong performances, it's quite interesting.

Spanish director Fernando León de Aranoa (Mondays in the Sun) gives us a snapshot of a certain kind of person, a kind of misfit who doesn't like going home -- or even having a home. The job is horrible, dangerous, and perhaps not even that rewarding, but there's still an odd kind of exotic allure to it. More than the horrors of war or the politics of war, it's this job, and these characters, that make the movie work.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about A Perfect Day's violence. How does it depict the horrors of war without showing graphic bloodshed and gore? How does it use violence to suggest things?

  • What is an aid worker? What appear to be the pros and cons of this particular job? Does it look appealing?

  • How did you feel about the teen boy with the gun?

  • Why is the "B" character so preoccupied with sex? What does sex mean to him?

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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