What Richard Did

 

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Starring Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley, Gavin Drea, Lars Mikkelsen, Lorraine Pilkington 15 cert, general release, 87 min

This low-key drama of young swells in South Dublin is powerfully affecting, writes TARA BRADY

WHAT RICHARD DID opens with three young men in a car cruising between the get-togethers and hook-ups of a pre-college summer. The driver is schoolboy rugby star Richard (Jack Reynor), a “super- rich” kid with a car, access to the family beach house and a charmed life. He has never wanted for anything and, sure enough, when he sets his sights on Lara (Roísín Murphy), he seems to easily win her over from Conor (Sam Keeley)

Sadly, our hero’s insecurities and defenses soon work to sabotage the blossoming romance. Too alpha male to stomach Lara’s continuing friendship with Conor, Richard is carelessly drawn into an after-party scuffle, a melange with devastating consequences.

Lenny Abrahamson’s first film, Adam and Paul, featured the lowest rung of society at the height of the boom. What Richard Did, conversely, reminds us that, even during times of economic crisis, the rich will always be with us.

As with everything else in the movie, Abrahamson is not flash with the cash. The film’s patient, naturalistic depiction of teen life – created over eight months of character workshopping with the young cast – simply doesn’t allow for ideological grandstanding. Talking points are kept on the lowdown. Important themes are slyly confined to throwaway, background details.

If Garage was made under the sign of Tarkovsky, this one’s for Bergman. The screenplay, by Shameless scribe Malcolm Campbell, studiously avoids the smoking guns found in Gus van Sant’s Elephant and the bad seed grotesquerie of We Need to Talk About Kevin in favour of thoughtful Scandinavian rhythms.

The characters are nuanced and brilliantly realised: the kids are privileged yet have little in common with the amoral, spoiled monsters that populate Larry Clarke’s similarly paced Bully. They slip off for drinks and sex in the park but they also do school spirit and say thank you. Richard behaves callously but mostly cluelessly.

The clean, casual lines of David Grennan’s cinematography add to the sensation that we’re watching a greatly needed antidote to an entire hysterical history of delinquent youths on screen. There are no direct references to the source novel (Kevin Power’s Bad Day in Blackrock) or the case that preceded it. There are only imperfect teens with imperfect lives ahead.

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