Director: Mark O’Rowe
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Catherine Walker, Eva Birthistle and Andrew Scott
Released: April 27
Two couples have a fraught dinner that leads to an altercation. This will be the first crack of many in the facades of these seemingly happy marriages.
Screenwriter and playwright Mark O’Rowe makes his directorial debut here, with a film that feels oddly staid, considering it’s from the man who wrote the brilliantly frenetic and free-wheeling Intermission.
The inevitable affair at this film’s centre seems sort of expedient, and not the natural result of some withheld passion. With all the blank curiosity of someone giving a new show on Netflix a bash, Murphy’s morally vacuous character just sort of happens upon his own flair for adultery. This may be realistic for busy, suburban families, but in lieu of any grand romance you’ll forgive me if I leave my kleenex unopened.
While the adulterers wallow in their bland turpitude, the beating heart of the film is Andrew Scott, who has secrets of his own. As you would expect from the thespian, he emotes with obvious relish. But he’s quieter here, delivering a genuinely touching speech from a hospital bed that is humble and conciliatory. One tends to miss him when he’s off screen.
To be fair, the film remains engaging throughout, mostly thanks to the performances. Still, there’s teasing glimpses of the freedom O’Rowe showed in his screenplay for Intermission. The script has some verve when the characters collide with more earthy people outside their middle-class bubble. There’s an enjoyably gobby turn from Lydia McGuinness as an obnoxious waitress, and an amusing confrontation with some teens when some sand dune rutting goes awry.
But these more humorous, unexpected moments are few and far between, with O’Rowe opting for a dour, dramatic tone. There’s a total whiff of cliche to the set up – with one of the characters even admitting so – and some surprises late in the game can’t quite dispel this impression. Why this needed to be a film and not a play is never really made clear. Perfectly serviceable fare, but O’Rowe is capable of better.
Words: Rory Kiberd