Director: Paddy Breathnach
Talent: Moe Dunford, Sarah Greene
Released: 12 October
When Rosie’s family loses their rented house after the landlord sells it, her days must be devoted to finding shelter despite the fact her husband works full-time. We open with her dogged attempts to secure a hotel for the night, her four kids shrilling and whining in the back seat of her car.
With a note-perfect script by Roddy Doyle, director Paddy Breathnach achieves an intimacy that few family-centred films do. This isn’t solely due to the confines of the family’s predicament, but down to the relatability of the daily foibles of family life: milkshakes are drunk after teeth are brushed; one daughter attends a sleepover without getting permission; and a toy rabbit must be retrieved from a boot before the family can finally settle down to a night’s rest they’ve only just about acquired. With this familiarity being our point of contact, the slow unraveling of this family’s security is all the more affecting. What would usually pass for everyday domestic aggravations become the stuff of nightmare as each setback makes the family’s chances of shelter for the night more scant.
Whether or not the family gets a hotel really is the central drama, and the film is all the stronger for it. Melodrama is kept firmly at bay. Although there are hints of more complicated and deep-seated family dynamics with regard to Rosie’s mother, they don’t bubble fully to the surface, and are wisely kept in the background. This is simply two very difficult days in a family’s life. Doyle has delineated this all too possible turning point in low income families with scalpel-like precision. The shame and the denial are so well-pitched that nothing more than the problem at hand is necessary.
Nevertheless, the film avoids simply being a rally-crying, message movie. Though admirable, these characters aren’t perfect. Pride is often as much of a barrier to their procuring of shelter for the night as governmental neglect. Even though Rosie’s mother is willing to let the children stay at her house on the condition Rosie takes back something she said, Rosie refuses. She has her reasons, but we are left slightly aghast at her unwillingness to swallow her pride this once for the sake of her family. Such scenes make this film a more effective wake up call than if these characters were merely saintly martyrs. Both Rosie and John-Paul show signs of denial throughout the ordeal
Still, it’s no wonder they feel the need to conceal their struggle. The limits to the compassion of their fellow citizens are all too clear. Offering no solution, a teacher thinks identifying the situation amounts to empathy; John-Paul’s brother is happy to blithely call them homeless, but gets nervous at the suggestion of them encroaching on his own family. But these people aren’t monsters: this is the average complacency of citizens not yet against the ropes. There are no arch-villains, save for a system that could allow for an upstanding, hardworking couple to be consigned to such a fate. Acts of subterfuge are necessary to ensure dignity, but an act of poignant subterfuge in the film’s dying moments made those in my screening linger in pensive silence long into the credits.
A vital piece of work, especially in the context of recent eviction controversies, made better still by its nuance and insight.
Words: Rory Kiberd
Image: Giovana Medeiros
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