Tag Archives: Naimh Algar

Strangers on a Plane

The Last Right

by Hope Madden

A few months back, Jamie Dornan and Emily Blunt stupefied us all (well, the dozen or so of us who saw Wild Mountain Thyme) with an Irish romance about as authentic as a Shamrock Shake. Writer/director Aoife Crehan’s The Last Right takes us back to the Emerald Isle to see if there’s any romance or magic left.

Oh, there is? Well, fine then.

Dutch actor Michiel Huisman plays Daniel Murphy, Irishman. Or American. Well, that’s fuzzy, but he’s certainly not Dutch, although his accent is tough to pinpoint. Daniel’s been called back from Boston to County Cork for his ma’s funeral, and to look in on his younger brother Louis (Samuel Bottomley, Get Duked!)

And old man – also named Murphy – dies on the airplane and authorities believe Daniel is his next of kin. They want him to deliver the remains to a church on the northern tip of Ireland, but that’s not his responsibility plus he has all this work to do and he can’t wait to get back to Beantown where his fancy lawyer job waits for him.

But Louis wants to go, and Louis has autism, which is where the film really gets a bit off the rails.

Crehan nods to Barry Levinson’s Rain Man early into the cross-country drive between two brothers with a large age gap, a long way to go and a lot to learn. Along for the ride is mortuary assistant Mary (Naimh Algar) and more contrivances than you can shake a shillelagh at.

Performances are solid. Algar brings a fiery spirit to the roadtrip experience, and Crehan fills small roles with the venerable talents of Brian Cox, Colm Meaney and Jim Norton. Plus the scenery is gorgeous.

There is a perfectly middle-of-the-road romantic dramedy here somewhere. You may enjoy it, assuming you can get past the tangle of convenient plot twists and you don’t wince at the device of an autistic character (played by an actor who is not on the spectrum, although Bottomley delivers a layered and respectful performance) teaching the real lessons.

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.