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The Crow Road
cast: Bill Paterson, Dougray Scott, Peter Capaldi, Joseph McFadden, and Valerie Edmond

director: Gavin Millar

242 minutes (15) 1996
widescreen ratio 16:9
Second Sight DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by John Percival
Prentice McHoan (Joseph McFadden) begins a search for the truth regarding the mysterious disappearance of his uncle Rory (Peter Capali). Rory vanished seven years previously whilst riding his motorcycle to visit his brother, Prentice's father, in the Scottish Highlands. Prentice's quest for the truth unravels 30 years of family secrets, two murders and one true love.

Based on the popular novel by Iain Banks, The Crow Road is a quirky, if slow, mystery thriller. The McHoan family is an unusual collection of misfits living in a large stately home on a picturesque estate. Prentice the youngest of two brothers is a penniless student who juggles (badly) his studies with the visions of his lost uncle who drives him on to solve the mystery. Amongst the somewhat lax morals of the characters, Prentice also deal with losing the object of his affections to his brother and sleeping with his own uncle's girlfriend. Prentice's brother played by Dougray Scott is a successful comedian whose brash nature sees him run over people's feelings. Other than that he does not really contribute much.

The Crow Road for a TV adaptation and for its age is quite nicely filmed. The sense of growing up amongst green rolling hills it quite nicely conveyed. Joseph McFadden's acting and narration of the story is quite pleasing. As Prentice, he is innocent but not without his troubles and looks like a scruffy student. He grows during the course of the story as he finds out more about the family he is apart of. Yet there is also the distance generated by the feud with this father and the hurt at the disastrous reconciliation.

The use of humour is actually very good and pops up in some unexpected places. It breaks up and punctuates the story and happily prevents it from being too dark, too deep or taking itself too seriously. Similarly it does not distract away from the more important and darker aspects of the series. Prentice's journey is definitely an odd one and although quirky and amusing it can seem a little long-winded and the pace a little sedate. There is very little action, and the filmmakers opt instead for the weight of the narration to carry the story. All in all The Crow Road is an amusing thriller thoughtfully written and ably presented on the screen. It could make an alternative to the many police based mystery thrillers.

Extras on the DVD set include an interview with author Iain Banks and commentary from the producer, director and screenwriter.
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