Directed by Graham Cantwell. Starring Anthony Fox, Gerard McSorley, Laura Way, Andy Smith, Griet Van Damme, Ronan Wilmot. 16 cert, gen release, 96 min


MOVIES dealing with the Northern Ireland conflict haven't gone away. Over the past six months, the film festival circuit introduced four films addressing the responses of young men caught up in that spiral of violence - Graham Cantwell's Anton, Macdara Vallely's Peacefire, Kari Skogland's Fifty Dead Men Walking, and the outstanding achievement against which they will be inevitably measured, Steve McQueen's Hunger.

The first to be released here is Anton, which is set in the early 1970s and "based on true events". Anthony Fox, who wrote the screenplay and produced the film with Patrick Clarke, plays Anton O'Neill, who returns after five years at sea to his Cavan border home.

The film captures a festering atmosphere of bigotry and misguided patriotism that Anton finds all too contagious. This is most effectively illustrated in an early scene south of the border when a gruff police inspector (Gerard McSorley) remonstrates with a politician speechifying outside a church: "We've no time for terrorists down here. Keep them up north where they belong."

Although the film is confusing in indicating the passage of time over the four years it spans, it takes off on a commendably unpredictable path that brings Anton to Paris at one point and offers the possibility of a new life, but he is already in too deep. In that respect, Antoncarries the burden of familiarity with all the many narratives set in Northern Ireland and around the world in observing similarly conflicted central characters.

Antonmarks a confident feature debut - achieved independently on a low budget - by Cantwell. Fox immerses himself in the title role with unstinting commitment, and McSorley invests characteristic authority in the role of the dogged detective on his trail.