Film Review: What Richard Did

There is a British film distribution company called ‘Artificial Eye‘ who specialise in foreign language and art house films. It doesn’t release many films each year – approximately 50 split across cinema and DVD, but what it releases are usually very good, but very left of main field. For instance, Winter’s Bone, Simple Men, We Need To Talk About Kevin and Melancholia all carry the Artificial Eye mark.

And so does What Richard Did. A low budget independent film hailing from Ireland, you can really tell, even just from the trailer, that this is going to be art house film making. And so, I went in expecting something slightly raw around the edges but with a power and conviction and a performance to gloss over any pitfalls it may have. Sadly though, for me, and especially compared to some of the other smaller independent offerings I’ve watched recently, it fell a long way short of the mark.

It’s not a completely bad film, it’s title role of Richard is played by Jack Reynor brilliantly and believably and for the opening act, I was instantly back at 18 years old, the memories of drunken house parties and sitting in groups at the local park talking about absolute nonsense in an attempt to look cool. What Richard Did transported me vividly back to a way of life, a “rite of passage” from childhood into adulthood that I’m actually glad I’ve left behind me.

However, that’s the opening act and after you suddenly get this overwhelming sense that this film is about revenge. That the story being told is not literally what is shown on screen this isn’t a story simply about Richard. The alpha male, the leader of the pack, the naturally cool, good at everything, always gets the girl, always gets what he wants… and how one simple action, one case of too much, of going too far can suddenly cause a world without intention to come crashing down, but rather this film is one man’s fist shaking “I’ll show you” chip that’s been embedded in his shoulder for a long, long time.

What Richard Did

They way this film moves forward, the style, the sense, you just feel that the director Lenny Abrahamson, was never that Alpha male, in fact I’d go as far as to say that within his group he was probably the shy, introverted sheep. Unintentionally and subconsciously following the pack into trouble only to be left holding the rope while the others ran away. The layers underneath the plot he creates are not happy, but sadly, while there is potential for that to work, the slant this sense of personal connection brings to the film hinders it and makes it hard to enjoy.

And because the lower levels are so disjointed and so personal you end up completely reliant on the surface plot to drag you through, to give you a film worth seeing and it’s not. It’s hard for a filmmaker bent on retribution and who seems to exude no personality traits with the characters he is creating to pull of this trick and this is another example of that route to failre.

Throughout the first half of the film nothing essentially happens, apart from a lot of drinking and our leading Alpha male strutting his stuff, and while that is Ok for a while, as it rotates again and again it forces you to look deeper for enjoyment and all you find is bitterness which causes you brain to switch off. As things ramp up, as the drinking becomes heavier. The plot starts to improve but for every improvement comes another dose of animosity towards the character. And the final ending, the final actions of Richard are not one of a man facing the situation he is in, the direction his life has gone, with any sense of rationale or parental guidance and support; but rather the final kick in the guts, the final “look how pathetic you are” retort from the director. Like I said, this film has a stench of vindictiveness to it that drives you away. And that’s such a shame.

I might be being far too hard on this film. After all, I’m not an Alpha male, never was, never will be, but I was never pushed as far, never broken as much, by them as I sense Abrahamson must have been that means I just cannot connect with the material and the ideas. There was the potential for this film to be very, very good as the basis of the plot was sound and could have provided a vehicle for a thought provoking and interesting story. Which married up to the ability of Jack Reynor, and the performance he shows he is capable of, could have left you, as Winter’s Bone did with me, unable to get what you’d seen out of your head for days.

Instead, I’m already looking forward to the next film.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.