Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Richard Did

2012, Ireland, directed by Lenny Abrahamson

In terms of current Irish directors, at least on the feature front, Lenny Abrahamson is in a class of one in turning out consistently insightful work. While What Richard Did is very different from his two previous films, Adam and Paul and Garage, in tone and milieu it shares with its predecessors a desire to explore some of the darker side of the Celtic Tiger. The storyline is loosely lifted from Kevin Power's novel Bad Day in Blackrock, in turn based on the death of Brian Murphy outside Annabel's nightclub in the summer of 2000, though Abrahamson replaces the novel's often artless, ripped-from-the-headlines qualities with a much quieter, more deliberate pace and abandons the narrative trickery that upends the conclusion.

Occasionally, Abrahamson's style is a little too on-the-nose -- the grey, metallic colour schemes and constantly blowing wind foreshadow the titular act, and are a touch obvious in their suggestion that all is not well in this world of privilege. The film's elliptical style works well, though, in economically sketching in patches of narrative -- a burgeoning relationship, the events of an extended party, the aftermath of a tragedy -- while also preserving a strong sense of naturalism. Where the oddball humour of Abrahamson's previous films is almost completely absent, his eye for the minutiae of Irish life continues to be very much in evidence. Indeed, having come of age on the fringes of this private school world, it was occasionally uncomfortable to watch: the film captures the rhythms of speech, the customs, the confidence of its particular world with anthropological accuracy, presumably a partial result of the extensive rehearsal process in which Abrahamson drew on the language and behaviour of the fine young cast.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States