Director : Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley, Lars Mikkelson, Rachel Gleeson
Running Time: 87 min
Release: October 5th
When the privileged are violent, it’s compelling. In the ‘60s the old-style aristocracy was fodder for counter-culturally minded filmmakers; you could bet on a Buñuel or Godard dinner party scene ending in murder, or at least dismemberment. Today’s rich tend to look more like regular folk, hence Lionel Shriver, say, taking aim at moneyed baby-boomers in We Need to Talk About Kevin.
That novel (made into a film in 2011) was set around a fictionalised school shooting, only a few years after Columbine seared the American psyche. Kevin’s mother might’ve made him into a mass-murderer, implies Shriver, so wrapped up was she in opulent apathy. The connection of privilege to an era-defining incident of mindless violence helped make the book a huge bestseller. In the same way that Columbine gave us Kevin, Lenny Abrahamson’s What Richard Did was inspired by the killing of Brian Murphy outside Blackrock’s Club Anabel in 2000.
We can forget that the script was ostensibly based on Kevin Power’s own hokey fictionalisation, the novel Bad Day in Blackrock. Abrahamson, like Shriver, has a lot to say about human fallibility, about the nature of evil, and he doesn’t share Power’s interest in the particular. Bad Day In Blackrock offered us a rich brute, red-faced and stoic, with an intelligence corralled on both sides by class and social convention. The film’s Richard is smarter, more sensitive and a little depressed. He’s under immense social pressure to achieve and has been cursed, it is hinted, with the genes of his depressive father. Money may be a given in his life, but we don’t begrudge him it. His angst forces our sympathy. A little Hamlet hides inside all of us, even the pretty rich kids.
Magic hour lens flares bring a sweet nihilism to almost every shot, especially during the film’s innocent first half (‘Bray Head Revisited’ is a joke I don’t have the courage to make outside of parentheses); What Richard Did is without a doubt the prettiest Irish film in years. Gloom spreads as the inevitable scene of violence sets itself up, blunting the shock a little. Things turn a litte stagey during a scene set in a church, naturally, and then turn away again. There’s no place for melodrama, when, finally, it’s up to Richard to choose whether he’s to allow himself be defined by one terrible act. The final scenes are stark; that little Hamlet pacing around again. What a piece of work is a man, indeed.