Schemers is a film, produced, written and directed by David McLean, about himself. This self-focus and vanity are what stops the film from being something more interesting. It never allows itself to breathe without himself around. In a film that effectively boasts about Davie, we are never given a reason to care.
Davie (Conor Berry) is a dreamer from the council schemes. Constantly hustling for his next buck, then losing it on the horses. After a football injury, Davie falls for trainee nurse Shona (Tara Lee) and tries to impress her by running a disco. Along with friends John and Scot, the trio starts promoting bands. Culminating in a hugely ambitious Iron Maiden gig at Caird Hall in Dundee.
This is a fairly thin script and to help paper over its issues and its low budget some clever tricks have been utilised. It is just a shame we have seen them all used before in much better films. Which also had just as low a budget. These techniques can only take a film so far and when we have characters that have next to no development or arcs worthy to speak of other than Davie. It becomes a bit of a struggle.
It should be noted that Schemers were produced and co-written by Dave McLean and is semi auto-biographical and thus Davie himself is the most charismatic, yet he is also the worst character personality-wise, a real-life Dennis the Menace who is that cheeky lad, who does things for others if he gets something out of it. Yet no matter what everyone just shrugs their shoulders and play it off because it’s Davie. Even Davie and Shona’s final scene together is rife of that. He is thinking of himself at all times and when he gets caught out, it doesn’t seem to affect him nearly as much as it does to Shona.
This is a shame as this should be a feature where we should easily care for everyone involved. Yet most of the supporting cast are so thinly written they may as well not be there. When a film is so laser focussed on its lead character and only wants to blow wind up that person it loses the audience. It needs a strongly written supporting cast to help carry the film and there just isn’t enough screen time for the rest of the cast to develop. It is all about Davie and it shouldn’t be.
Happily, however, this is a light-hearted film and thank goodness it is. If this had gone down a serious route it would have been as bad as Stardust. Here we have many a funny moment to distract us from the fact of how Davie isn’t the best character to centre your film on. Schemers are enhanced by the cast who are all game for it, even if their characters are left behind. Conor Berry tries his best to make Davie personable, but he is held back by a script and direction that causes him to stall.
Behind the camera is where Schemers shine, be it the crackingly good soundtrack or the production design from Wendy Cairns. Who makes you feel we have been in this late early 80s for a while and you settle yourself fully in her world. This feels and looks authentically Scottish and it should have the plaudits for that. Editor Khaled Spiewak does wonders here, be it the sparsely attended gigs due to the low budget that he has to workaround to the fact that. As mentioned he does steal a little from other films, but it works well enough.
Schemers in the end fail when it ignores everything around Davie by only focusing on himself. It is a shame as there is a world here that should be expanded upon. But McLean just got too wrapped up in himself to realise it. Schemers feel like a film that didn’t have a steadier more experienced hand at the script stage to help direct the film better. In truth, that is where it falters most.
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