June 18, 2009 / 4:44 PM / 10 years ago

Edinburgh festival kicks off with Mendes film

EDINBURGH (Reuters Life!) - The Edinburgh International Film Festival kicked off its 11-day season on Wednesday night with the international premiere of a comedy directed by British Oscar-winner Sam Mendes, “Away We Go.”

Film director Sam Mendes poses for photographers before attending the screening of his new film 'Away We Go' at the opening night of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Scotland June 17, 2009. REUTERS/David Moir

The festival, in its 63rd year after being born alongside the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe in 1947, is putting on 135 films, ranging from full-length features to documentaries and shorts.

Its artistic director Hannah McGill said one of its major aims was to discover and encourage new talent.

The feature line-up includes Steven Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience,” David Mackenzie’s “Spread” starring Ashton Kutcher and “Le Donk” from Shane Meadows, winner of the festival’s 2008 Michael Powell award for best new British feature film for “Somers Town.”

Away We Go stars John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph as a slightly chaotic unmarried couple who are awaiting their first baby.

They set out around North America, from Montreal to Arizona to Florida, to meet old friends and kin and decide on where to settle and raise a family.

A form of road movie, the film abounds with zany characters and black humor, with Maggie Gyllenhaal providing one of the cameo appearances.

Mendes, whose previous films include “American Beauty,” “Road to Perdition” and “Revolutionary Road,” told a news conference that a theme running through his movies was the central characters being lost and trying to find their way.

He said he had not wanted to launch “Away We Go” at the recent Cannes Film Festival because he preferred Edinburgh to the razzmatazz and media scrum of the French Riviera.

Early critical reception to the film has been lukewarm.

Alistair Harkness of the Scotsman newspaper panned the film in a two-star review, calling it “an unbearably precious road movie...

“It’s the kind of movie that wallows in winsomeness, kooky characters and the overbearing use of Nick Drake-style songs on the soundtrack ... what a disappointing start to the festival.”

The Times critic Damon Wise awarded the film three out of five stars, describing it as “a dry but entertaining crowd pleaser, but from Mendes it feels like pastiche.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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