It's 1995 in the Balkans, and driving over that dead cow in the road may trigger a land mine, but then again, so might going around it. Yet this what-to-do scenario, as presented in writer-director Fernando León de Aranoa's "A Perfect Day," holds little suspense or dark comedy.
A valiant attempt to give war's diligent, unsung cleanup personnel — humanitarian aid workers — a slice of absurdist/melancholy movie memorializing to call their own, it suffers from a marked lack of narrative energy and a regrettable surfeit of clichéd characterization.
Benicio del Toro's weary security chief (for the fictional Aid Across Borders), conflicted about going home soon to a demanding girlfriend, is saddled with an uninteresting romantic entanglement involving a suddenly reappearing old flame (Olga Kurylenko). Meanwhile, the dynamic between the crusty, smart-ass veteran (Tim Robbins) and the wide-eyed newbie (Melanie Thierry) feels manufactured rather than illuminative about who's drawn to this work.
The movie is more focused when simply depicting the infuriating snafus — bureaucratic, local or otherwise — that prevent the gang from trying to extract a dead body from a village well. There's also a delicately encroaching, war-ravaged sadness to a subplot about a young boy Del Toro takes under his wing. Though beautifully filmed in high mountain areas that lend an arresting visual crispness, "A Perfect Day" is a regrettable meander through standard antiwar sentiments.
"A Perfect Day"
Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
MPAA rating: R for language including some sexual references