The Gift review: a commendable if uneven study of grief

There are moments of promise in Damian O’Callaghan’s debut, but too often The Gift tends towards melodrama

    
Director: Damian O'Callaghan
Cert: 15A
Genre: Drama
Starring: Alan Devine, Una Kavanagh, Dawn Bradfield, Brendan Grace
Running Time: 1 hr 22 mins

Kudos to Damian O'Callaghan for getting this independently financed Irish feature into commercial cinemas. Made in and around Killarney, The Gift is a sincerely intended study of the grieving process that delivers lessons worth heeding. Unfortunately, the picture's rough edges and thin construction let it down. Still, it does have the oddest cameo from Brendan Grace since his cackle from within a crate in the little-seen Dick Dickman PI.

We begin with Sean (Alan Devine) walking into the road and staring down a hurtling truck. Then we flash back to find him enjoying a dinner at a restaurant with his late wife Sarah (Una Kavanagh). There is some talk about “Chilean Shiraz” before, arterial blood streaming from her nose, she expires breathing the verse of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The months pass and Sean fails to reconnect to life. We learn that, some time before her final calamity, Sarah survived leukaemia. Sean is thus stuck with a dilemma worthy of Dostoevsky at his least merry: what deity would play such an apparently diabolical prank on a decent man?

The film does have its interesting moments. Sean's encounter with a mysterious bearded man in a field allows Grace an opportunity to confirm his gift for storytelling. But too often The Gift tends towards the melodrama of those opening sequences. Vaseline-lensed flashbacks to the couples' idyllic home life suggest the happy bits in insurance commercials. Sean gets to say exactly what he means at least twice too often. The sight of a noose hanging from a tree nudges us into accidental macabre.


There are promising moments here, but The Gift is too on-the-nose to convince as a fully formed feature. A commendable effort, nonetheless.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist