18-24 January, DCA
What Richard Did is a striking and emotionally daunting movie revealing the ease with which a single act can completely alter the course of a life. Set among the rich upper class of Dublin, the film follows the story of Richard (Jack Reynor), an extremely popular rugby player whose life is all planned out until the events of one drunken night shatter all of his expections and hopes for his future.
Director Lenny Abrahanson, whose previous works include Adam and Paul (2004) and Garage (2007), does a fantastic job of capturing the state of paralysis which grips and consumes the characters. Richard and his friends come from the rich upper classes of Dublin society. They go to parties, drink, and spend time in Richard’s secluded beach house. The audience is allowed to immerse themselves in the ritual regularity these events, this makes what happens on that fateful night all the more powerful. However, the event that changes the course of Richard’s world does not take centre stage. Rather, the movie showcases the aftermath of this and its effect upon Richard. The moving dialogue and storyline by scriptwriter Malcolm Campbell elevates it above films tackling similar themes. It tells an emotionally harrowing story without resorting to melodrama and Abrahanson’s blunt, realist aesthetic only serves to deepen the film’s grip on the audience.
The acting is fantastic, even though almost the entire cast is relatively unknown. Richard, the central character, is a charismatic figure with plenty of friends and, within the first ten minutes of the film, one cannot help but be charmed by his character. He shares a close relationship with his parents, especially his father, whose reactions later on in the film exemplify the moral dilemmas of harbouring a secret, even if for the sake of your own son. Friendships are broken; the effect that these events have on Richard is plain to see, and the film makes it easy for the audience to relate to his situation. Richard’s subtle eye movements and hidden expressions paint a picture of a complex personality which escapes the limited view that the other characters have of him. Although some characters have little screen time compared to the others, it becomes apparent that all have a history. This gives the film an additional depth and greatly adds to the complex narrative. At a birthday party for Connor, one of his team-mates, Richard meets Connor’s girlfriend Lara (Roisin Murphy), and the ensuing love-triangle becomes the central cause for a drunken fight that breaks out between Richard and Connor, the results of which changes the course of Richard’s whole life.
The realist aesthetic and the use of external shots in natural light are effective and lend the film a remarkable authenticity. What Richard Did greatly benefits from an original score which avoids the use of chart music and some of the best moments in the film balances delicately music with silence.. The anxiety of the characters is transferred to the audience as the camera cuts from the face of one character to another in complete silence. However, the music never obstructs or gets in the way of the dialogue and rightfully so, as the script is one of the strongest aspects of the film.
The social commentary in the film is also hard to ignore as we witness the perfect lives of every characters shatter as they start to deal with the aftermath of Richard’s actions. What Richard Did, loosely based on Kevin Power’s book Bad Day In Blackrock, is an extremely powerful film with a powerful message and an exceptional cast. If talents such as Abrahanson are the future of Irish cinema, we can look forward to a sure run of some truly great films.