Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Writer: Malcolm Campbell
Starring: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley, Lars Mikkelsen, Padraic Delaney, Gavin Drea
Synopsis: Richard (Reynor) has just started dating Lara (Murphy) and their relationship is developing well. However, Lara’s ex-boyfriend stands in the way on a few occasions and on one particular night, a drunken brawl turns into a devastating tragedy.
The Irish film industry has not prospered as much it could over the last few decades (gems like Waking Ned, Hunger and The Guard being some of the exceptions) though when they produce something of good value it stands out. What Richard Did is not an exceptional film but it shows the strength of the country’s writers, actors and directors.
As the examples show, Irish film is most associated with comedies and stories of the IRA. It is a staple that often harms Ireland’s chances at becoming recognised in the field though with director Lenny Abrahamson that may change. Abrahamson’s last few films include a tragicomedy called Garage and the hard-hitting drama Adam & Paul. Soon he will make Frank, a comedy with Michael Fassbender, which will undoubtedly get him attention. As of now, What Richard Did stands to give him a credible name in the film industry as the film exudes a mature filmmaking technique.
Behind the camera may be one aspect of What Richard Did’s achievement, but its main triumph is found in the lead, Jack Reynor. Reynor takes the script, and the scenes of improvisation, with a confidence seldom found in young actors. One scene in particular where Richard contemplates what he did (without detailing in order to avoid spoilers) that quickly turns into a scene of hysteria is haunting in its brief moment. Many of Reynor’s co-stars have gone on to big projects and after this it should be the same for him. He has to carry a film dealing with issues of despair, morality and love; not an easy task but Reynor manages it with ease.
The downfall of the film is its steady pace that lulls you along its narrative. When a moment of violence or argument occurs it jolts the film out of its monotony but these are rare in the storyline, leaving the film to drag along. The running time is perhaps too long to render the minutia and the drama as effectively as the director may have hoped for. The pivotal plot point and the aftermath of it has been seen and played in many films and What Richard Did does not do that much differently with the subject matter. The relationship between Richard, his girlfriend and his parents after the incident is what compels you through this tried piece of disequilibrium.
***By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms