Tag Archives: Cosmo Jarvis

Come On, Get Happy

Funny Face

by Hope Madden

Though writer/director Tim Sutton’s latest is more a collection of images and moments than a strictly plotted narrative, the story that unfolds is kind of a bittersweet wonder.

An isolated youngish man (Cosmo Jarvis) rails against the impending destruction of his neighborhood, a community he haunts wearing a happy Halloween mask. An act of kindness at a nearby convenience store, though, brings about a surprising and really lovely friendship.  

Jarvis, who was so good in last year’s Calm with Horses, convinces again as an outsider with a lot of pent-up anger but an otherwise sweet heart. There’s a mixture of brutality and vulnerability in the portrayal that calls to mind Tom Hardy or even Brando – although, given a particular preoccupation in the film, he may be aiming for James Dean.

Newcomer Dela Meskienyar matches him step for step as another outsider, also angry at circumstances that feel beyond control, also hiding her face. It’s a remarkable and never forced kind of parallelism Sutton develops–a lost quality that he sees in every character. He uses this thread to braid disparate lives together and to create a sense of empathy, even toward the most loathsome among us.

Sutton is no stranger to tales of white male alienation, bruised masculinity, and an almost childlike struggle with our primal nature. Both his first feature Dark Night (which deals with the 2012 Aurora shooting), and his follow up, Donnybook (about bare knuckle brawls in addiction-riddled Ohio) illustrate his interest.

Funny Face, though, marks a step toward something more stylish. The film has a retro vibe, like a long-lost Seventies indie set in Brooklyn. Given the of-the-moment storyline, this offers his film the timeless quality of a fairy tale—a theme he develops with imagery of equal parts urban realism and magical whimsy.

A sense of mourning fuels Funny Face. While Sutton’s film is intimately linked to its Brooklyn setting, that exact same mourning informs Lesotho’s beautiful This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection, also releasing this week. Unchecked capitalism is a global cancer, it would seem.

All of Sutton’s films contextualize human struggle within the context of community. This has never been truer than it is with Funny Face, a comment on the way greed destroys history and the sense of place, leaving nothing in that emptiness, even for those who profit.

Not even a smile.  

Family Ties

The Shadow of Violence

by George Wolf

Just how Irish is The Shadow of Violence?

Well, it’s got enough of its Irish up that hearing “Whiskey in the Jar” play on a barroom jukebox feels like being part of an inside joke. And that’s about the only funny business in a film that fuses multiple inspirations into one searingly intimate rumination on a life defined by violence.

Douglas “Arm” Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis) was once a promising Irish boxing champion, but left the gloves behind for the reliable income and familiar treatment offered by the Devers crime family. As their chief enforcer, Arm is feared, which often hampers his relationship with his ex Ursula (Naimh Algar) and their autistic son Jack.

The delicate co-existence of Arm’s two worlds is a constant struggle, but when family patriarch Paudi Devers (Ned Dennehy) finally orders Arm to kill, it becomes clear there is room for only one set of loyalties.

Director Nick Rowland and screenwriter Joseph Murtagh adapt Colin Barrett’s short story “Calm With Horses” with a tightly-wound sense of tension and brutality that propels a fascinating curiosity about the lasting effects of violence on the ones dishing it out.

While recalling films from the classic (On the Watefront) to the underseen (The Drop), Rowland’s feature debut carves out its own rural identity thanks to an instinct for detail (watching two Irish gangsters debate the wisdom of fleeing to Mexico is perfection) and a marvelous cast.

Jarvis makes Arm an endlessly sympathetic brute, providing a needed depth to Arm’s slow awakening about who is and isn’t worth his trust. Much of that trust is given to Paudi’s heir apparent Dympna, an unrepentant manipulator brought to menacing life by Barry Keoghan (The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Dunkirk), who again shows why you don’t want to miss any film with him in it.

But it’s Arm’s time with Ursula and Jack (Kiljan Moroney) that reminds him of the kind of man he wants to be, one that knows the difference “between loyalty and servitude.”

These moral complexities of a man questioning his sense of the world are what gives The Shadow of Violence its voice, one that speaks most eloquently in the spaces between the bloodshed.