Happy Ever Afters

 

Directed by Stephen Burke. Starring Sally Hawkins, Tom Riley, Sinead Maguire, Jade Yourell, Ariyon Bakare, Stanley Townsend, Ger Ryan. 12A cert, lim release, 104 min

Stephen Burke, director of the admired No Tears, is the latest brave soul to have a crack at breaking the jinx lurking over mainstream Irish comic films. The results are mixed.

Offering an uneasy amalgam of farce and more nuanced character comedy, Happy Ever Aftershangs around a perfectly acceptable humorous conceit. Two rather different wedding parties are taking place in the same hotel – a layabout gets manacled to his neurotic partner; a destitute woman marries an illegal immigrant for cash – and, as the groups mingle, the groom from one (layabout Tom Riley) becomes entangled with the bride from the other (destitute Sally Hawkins).

Burke supervises the opening with aplomb, but the picture features so many jostling subplots that it fast becomes hard to focus on the central relationship. Stanley Townsend, playing Riley’s father-in-law, seems to have been instructed to regard Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shiningas a masterpiece of restraint, while reliable comic pros Michael McElhatton and David Pearce fail to make much of their turn as “bungling” (I quote the press notes) detectives.

All this is a shame, because much of the dialogue between Riley and Hawkins is worth savouring and there is a screwball chemistry between the leads that could have flourished in less cluttered territory. The search for that domestic comic gem continues.