Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Talent: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley
Release Date: 5th October 2012
Lenny Abrahamson’s third feature as director, written by Malcolm Campbell, takes its cue from Kevin Power’s Bad Day In Blackrock, a novel centred around an act of brutal violence by privileged young men from the titular Dublin suburb. With the director’s focus shifted from marginalised figures in Irish society, as in Adam and Paul and Garage, to those at the centre of power, one might be forgiven for expecting an angry, social realist film about class-conflict and the machinations of public justice, but Abrahamson delivers instead a naturalistic exploration of the psychological condition of its main character, the popular and ambitious Richard (Jack Reynor). Which is not to say that the issue of class is not present here: the film speaks the language of privilege, it infiltrates and embodies its social environment with apparent disinterest, David Grennan’s camera limiting itself to the occasional muted piece of expressionism, often empathetic to Richard’s mental state. And while explicit social commentary is distinctly absent from Abrahamson’s unsentimental, perhaps universal, tale of betrayal, violence and the ties that bind, the film cannot be seen as an apolitical gesture in itself: this is a story of an assault and murder committed by young members of the ruling class, seen from their perspective — gestures scarcely come more politically-loaded.
The nature of character-driven cinema is to evoke empathy in the audience, to have us relate to its central character(s), and in spite of its suddenly rather disturbing content, What Richard Did achieves this admirably. For this, great credit must go to Jack Reynor, whose feature debut as an actor must rank among the finest performances of his generation. We cannot reject Richard entirely without leaving the cinema, without rejecting our own status as spectators. We become party to his crimes and subsequent evasion of justice, and it is at times brilliantly, nauseatingly uncomfortable. If this film makes apparent to us, on one level, that violence is inherent in existing social structures, Abrahamson, then, makes it fundamental to the act of watching.
You can also read our interview with Abrahamson and Reynor right here: http://totallydublin.ie/film/film-features/what-richard-did-lenny-abrahamson-and-jack-reynor-interviewed/