Director: Lenny Abrahamsan
Starring: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Liana O’Cleirigh
Release Date: October 5th
These days it’s rare to find a film or show about teenagers that doesn’t treat them as if their only concerns are sex and drugs, instead giving them genuine thoughts and feelings. But if anyone could successfully add depth to teenagers it would be Lenny Abrahamson, director of Irish films Adam and Paul and Garage. This is exactly what he achieves in What Richard Did, loosely based on Kevin Power’s novel Bad Day in Blackrock.
The film follows Richard (Jack Reynor), an ambitious rugby prodigy and alpha-male of a group of upper middle class 18-19 year olds finishing up in an Irish secondary school. When the girl he’s fallen for (Roisin Murphy) is seen continuously consoling a male friend, Richard’s jealousy gets the best of him, leading to a tragic reaction.
What Richard Did is a slow-burner, purposely taking it’s time to tell a short enough story. But while the pacing is slow it’s never laborious, confidently giving the characters time to chat and interact for no obvious plot reasons. This creates a very loose feeling, especially for the first half, as if you’ve been given access to voyeuristically watch these young adults just hanging out. Conversations are often light-hearted with distinctly Irish banter, such as when Richard tells an ‘I swear its true’ story about an unfortunate chap losing a testicle in a rugby match. But the film’s tone remains serious, the constantly gloomy Irish weather seeming to literally signify this as the calm before the storm.
These seemingly unimportant and uneventful conversations allow us to become familiar with and endear towards these characters, specifically Richard. The extent to which this succeeds is even more impressive considering the core group of friends are all of an upper middle class background, a group that is generally mocked in Irish media with the likes of Ross O’Carroll Kelly.
What Richard Did fleshes out these stereotypes and maturely shows that these are just scared and vulnerable kids. It’s this impressive level of realism that gives the film’s inevitable tragedy all the more emotional impact. By the time Richard does what the title refers to, you’re significantly invested in what he’s going through.
What Richard Did is a small film in that it has a tight focus. It sticks to one character and a set tone and doesn’t budge. There are no real side plots and the sense of inevitability in the title means that even the more light-hearted segments are tainted with what’s to come. And, as if to hammer in the nail, the film opts not to offer any real closure, forcing you to decide for yourself what conclusion you would find satisfactory.
In a Nutshell: A slow-burning and emotionally provocative character study of guilt with a distinct mood that stays with you long after you’ve left the cinema.