Patrick’s Day review: a fascinating collision of psychiatric drama and state-of-the nation address

Grim sincerity and singularity of voice set this psychiatric drama apart

Moe Dunford in Patrick’s Day: a subtle portrayal of schizophrenia

Film Title: Patrick's Day

Director: Terry McMahon

Starring: Moe Dunford, Kerry Fox, Catherine Walker, Philip Jackson, Aaron Monaghan

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 102 min

Thu, Feb 5, 2015, 17:23

   

Even the most cursory glance at Terry McMahon’s first feature, the “problematic” Charlie Casanova, will prepare the viewer for some strongly flavoured writing and hands-on direction. There’s nothing much mumblecore about the Mullingar-born director.

Sure enough, this fascinating collision of psychiatric drama and state-of-the nation address is not free from overwriting. Do I sense a metaphor in that brandished jigsaw puzzle of Ireland? Did somebody, in full Dostoyevsky colic, declare they were “rotting inside”? Is voracious matriarch Kerry Fox really playing a combination of Shakespeare’s Volumnia and Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate?

The answer to all those questions is yes. But it’s hard to care. Indeed, the film’s ripeness is part of its considerable appeal. Moe Dunford is excellent as Patrick, a sensitive man coping indifferently with a severe schizophrenic condition. Patrick’s Day kicks off with him passing through a damp and busy Dublin on – the film is emblematic to a fault – the birthday he shares with the national saint’s feast day. He gets separated from his controlling mother (Fox) and ends up spending the evening with an existentially distressed flight attendant (Catherine Walker).

 

Not surprisingly, Fox’s contemporary Medea is unhappy with the liaison. Following further trauma, she conspires to convince Patrick that the young woman is a figment of his imagination.

Working with Michael Lavelle, cinematographer on His & Hers, and Emer Reynolds, among our most gifted editors, McMahon comes up with a persuasive visual grammar that dances vigorously to the film’s changing moods. At moments of intimacy, the extreme close-ups are seductive and soothing.

During Patrick’s later torments, the same effect is used to alienate and appal. Canny match-cuts tie characters together at unexpected moments. Throughout it all, Dunford engineers his character’s collapse with great subtlety.

There are too many rough edges in Patrick’s Day to list in this place. But its grim sincerity and its singularity of voice set it out from the pale crowd. Well worth investigating.