Redemption of a Rogue: Mucky goings-on in Cavan

Review: Black humour interspersed with mad visions flesh out the dark themes

Doherty is always in control of his own damp aesthetic and Monaghan remains committed to his bleak anti-hero

Film Title: Redemption of a Rogue

Director: Philip Doherty

Starring: Aaron Monaghan, Aisling O’Mara, Kieran Roche, Pat McCabe

Genre: Comedy

Running Time: 93 min

Fri, Aug 27, 2021, 05:00


Philip Doherty’s grim Ulster comedy – winner of best Irish film at last year’s Galway Film Fleadh – packs a lot of mucky ambition into its 93 minutes. We get blue-note variations on archetypal rural dysfunction. We get morbid fantasy sequences that play like comic variations on those in Bergman’s Wild Strawberries.

What really stands out, however, is an impressive dedication to the meteorological pathetic fallacy. It rains in Cavan. It really, really rains in this version of that great county.

Jimmy Cullen (Aaron Monaghan), a dissolute prodigal who has enjoyed much drink and no small amount of less legal stimulants, returns home just in time to watch his estranged father die. It transpires the eccentric left a will stipulating that should his body be buried on a rainy day the son will be disinherited. This would be a challenge in everyday Cavan. In the biblically sodden county of Doherty’s film, the conditions may be impossible to satisfy.

There is something of a Nick Cave song about Redemption of a Rogue. A man comes to town. He comes shouldering trouble. The rain it raineth daily. Robbie Perry’s twanged soundtrack heightens the sense that bits of the American south have been transplanted. Black humour is interspersed with mad visions that alternately flesh out the film’s dark themes and slyly subvert them. Like Cave, Doherty seems aware of his own excesses and is prepared to place them within occasional inverted commas.

Everywhere Jimmy goes in the town he encounters memories of his own useless past and reminders of why he left. This is an exhaustingly common theme in Irish film and literature. Not for the first time an emigrant is propelled into a conversation with the wretched streets that made him what he is. Not for the first time does the Virgin Mary answer back. 

At times the ripe dialogue and extravagant imagery become wearying. Despite the healthy smattering of strong jokes, the overall pessimism is occasionally oppressive. But Doherty is always in control of his own damp aesthetic and Monaghan remains committed to his bleak anti-hero.

Here is a film clawed up from the damp soil and smeared imaginatively across the screen. It is unlikely to be confused with Wild Mountain Thyme.

Opens on August 27th