Director: Morgan Bushe
Talent: Pat Shortt, Michael Smiley, Peter Coonan
Released: 7 December
The Belly of the Whale tells a neat story of unorthodox friendships, small-town scallywaggery and, ultimately, of redemption. Morgan Bushe’s first feature-length is an exploration of the remnants of our past, our longing to right our wrongs and the cautions of suturing emotional wounds with lies.
Set around the clockwork of a small-town inhabited with peculiar characters, from local cocaine sniffing hard-men Rooster and Hobo Harry, to elderly gamblers and underage drinkers, all presided over by the principle antagonist, local business owner-cum-politician Gits, played to slimy perfection by the menacing Michael Smiley.
Told with dark humour and more than a nod to its transatlantic indie influences, we’re plunged into a stylistically shot long-weekend in a coastal town when young drifter Joey Moody returns from Scotland to the caravan park that bears his family name, that was clearly once his home, with the mission to raise the funds to reanimate the derelict site.
Enter the bumbling and relapsed alcoholic Ronald (Pat Shortt) who, through divine intervention involving the failed sale of shoddily manufactured teddy-bears, makes acquaintance with the young Moody. He too must raise some cash, although for an altogether different reason.
On a drunken night at the park, spirits buoyed by spirits, the two hatch a plan that falls somewhere between pure intoxicated enterprising and thinly-veiled revenge-plot. What follows is a chain-of-events that manifest as both the comically violent and at times, deeply tender exploration of how far the human mind and spirit will go to avoid facing up to the tragedy and despair of reality.
The ending comes around much like the start, endowing the whole film with the ephemeral attributes of a dream, as if this wild-weekend never actually happened. Except that it did, with very real consequences and with poignant questions posed to the audience.
Words: Edd Norval