Class acting gets close to the bone
Lenny Abrahamson's new film has a tragic origin: the killing of Brian Murphy outside Club Anabel in 2001. But it concentrates less on violence and more on privilege and the pressures of teenage life in modern Dublin, writes
'WE'VE HAD reports back about parents and kids going home from screenings and having conversations that they've never had before," says Jack Reynor, the 20-year-old star of What Richard Did.
The jolting new film, directed by Lenny Abrahamson, is an adaptation of Bad Day in Blackrock, Kevin Power's fictionalised account of the death of Brian Murphy outside the Burlington Hotel in 2001. The film concentrates less on the killing of a young man, and more on the life of adolescents in modern Dublin.
None of the actors can remember the death of Murphy, nor the subsequent trial. Any similarities with the Murphy case, they insist, have been minimised by the lengthy preparation time. "It's 99 per cent original material," says Reynor. "All the characters are original."
Reynor has re-joined fellow cast members Sam Keeley, Róisín Murphy and Gavin Drea to tease out the film's unusually complex evolution. "We sat down for eight months prior to shooting to workshop in a very informal way," says Reynor.
"We all became really tight mates really fast. That allowed Malcolm [ Campbell, the writer on the film] and Lenny to use that time to hang out with us and listen to how we talked and to incorporate details from our own lives into the script."
Murphy, the daughter of actor Charlotte Bradley and the one-time child star of The Clinic, insists this was unlike any project she's ever worked on before: "Usually when you're playing young characters they're in the background as a sister or a daughter. They're supporting roles. But we were really absorbed and involved in the making of this."
Armed with cues from the cast's mannerisms and biographies, Abrahamson and screenwriter Campbell's film unfolds as a series of languid, summer teenage hook-ups.
In the film, Reynor's Richard Karlsen is the beloved captain of the school rugby team: a "super-rich" kid with a car, free access to the family beach house, and plenty of bros to hang out with. He seems to have his pick with girls, too, but unwisely becomes besotted with Lara (Róisín Murphy), the main squeeze of mutual friend, Conor (Sam Keeley).
Richard flashes his smile, woos Lara and soon becomes irritated by her continuing relationship with Conor, leading, finally, to an altercation. "We've never really seen Irish middle-class people like this before," says Gavin Drea. "We've never seen them as a varied group of people. They're always caricatures." "They're Fade Street," adds Keeley.
On paper, it's hardly the most sympathetic or heroic part but in a film composed of cool, level-headed meditations on teen life in Ireland, Richard is more than a scheming rich kid.
"If you live in Dublin and go to certain schools you can't avoid people like Richard," says Drea, who plays Richard's best friend, Stephen. "You probably shouldn't feel sorry for him but you do. I think that is what's special about Lenny's films. It doesn't matter if you're Adam and Paul [ the eponymous heroin addicts from Abrahamson's 2004 film] or Richard, the films are about how people cope."