Aidan Gillen in Mister John
Film Title: Mister John
Director: Joe Lawlor, Christine Molloy
Starring: Aidan Gillen, Zoe Tay, Michael Thomas, Claire Keelan
Running Time: 95 min
The latest film from Irish conceptual artists Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy opens with an image of a dead body floating in the water. Best get used to the idea. Mister John, a strange, disjointed narrative with no particular place to go, is composed exclusively of strange, disjointed images.
We soon learn that the corpse belongs to the titular character, the late brother of the depressed Mister Gerry (a Zen-like Aidan Gillen), who journeys to Singapore to assist his surviving in-laws.
Gerry’s adventures – though one hesitates to use the word in such a muted context – see him hanging around with his dead brother’s attractive widow (Zoe Tay), wearing his dead brother’s clothes, and propping up his dead brother’s bar. We quickly realise that Gerry’s own marriage back in London is disintegrating.
What else is going on here? Damned if we know. One non sequitur sees our hero get bitten by a snake. Another non sequitur pitches him against a customer who owes the bar money. What now?
Working under the moniker Desperate Optimists, Lawlor and Molloy have fashioned such memorable gallery pieces as Civic Life and Who Killed Brown Owl?. Unhappily, and in common with Helen, the couple’s last attempt at feature film-making, Mister John doesn’t find their experimental approach gelling in the cinema. The flattened drama, minimalist performances and jetlag atmospherics would sit prettily in any modern exhibit. But finding the same material in a picture house is like finding a game of Pac Man in the same place. Or a box of soap powder. Or a hamster.
This just doesn’t do what it says on the tin. Come to think of it, we can’t read the tin. The mystery is sufficiently engaging to pique our interest, but doesn’t do quite enough to hold it.