Friday, 20 September 2013

What Richard Did, dir. Lenny Abrahamson, wr. Malcolm Campbell, st. Jack Reynor, Róisín Murphy, Lars Mikkelsen

Well you don't find out until a good way into this icy little Irish indie, loosely based on the novel Bad Day in Blackrock by Kevin Power, itself based in real-life events, and such retention of information and attention to the build-up and methodical layering of character and motivation is the key ingredient in Abrahamson's tale of tortuous guilt and split-second calamity. Richard Karlsen (Reynor, soon to be seen as Neo-LaBeouf in Transformers: Age Of Extinction) is a bright, conscientious teenager, loyal to his mates, and intent on filling the interim gap between school and university with beer and beach parties. Soon, Richard and another friend in the group, the shy-smiled, hazel-eyed Lara, are making eyes at each other, even though she's on the downward slope of another relationship with Connor (Sam Keeley). As Lara retains contact with Connor post-partnering, and Connor in turn continues to ingratiate himself within the group, Richard struggles to keep his jealousy and possessiveness in check until one night when it erupts in a swift moment of casual and unchecked violence. The narrative that subsequently unfolds doesn't concern itself with the broad brushstroke-style of year-spanning collateral fallout and subsequent atonement of sin we may be familiar with from watching Shawshank too many times, but rather the quiet and destructive way guilt corrodes and consumes from within. It's never clear whether the traumatized Richard acts out of a sense of over-privileged only-child syndromed entitlement or simply as a defense-mechanized response to an unbearable predicament, but the glacial pacing that serves the film up until the shocking moment in question only further heightens the realisation of the fragility and instability of one's own linear paths, mistaken as we are as thinking of them as unalterable, unidirectional. For such an unassuming film, bathed in soft greys, whites, greens and creams by cinematographer David Grennan, tenderly scored by Stephen Rennicks, and mightily performed by the largely young cast, What Richard Did resonates long after you close your eyes.