Mr. WB & I watched ‘What Richard Did’ on Valentine’s night. Not quite anyone’s idea of a romantic film, but RTE are showing Lenny Abrahamson’s back catalogue in the run-up to Oscar night. It was critically lauded on its release, but I’d missed it in the cinema, and up till now.
To be honest, I was underwhelmed. The Guardian described it as haunting, and I can see why. It was drifting through my mind the following day. It is certainly well-shot, with a poetry in the cinematography, and its slow pauses to focus on the waves, an empty garden, trees overhead.
For those who don’t know, the film follows a popular upper middle class teenager whose life changes when a drunken fights gets out of hand. It’s based on the book ‘Bad Day in Blackrock’ by Kevin Power, itself loosely based on (I don’t feel comfortable typing ‘inspired by’) the real life killing of a Dublin teenager outside a nightclub in 2000. Mr. WB had read the book, and was of the opinion that both the book and film are overly sympathetic to Richard. I’d probably agree. The film seems to demonstrate a lack of long-term consequence for his actions, even in terms of his own emotions.
Jack Reynor carries the load well- the film concentrates quite a bit on his facial expression. My overall feeling still remained once of style over susbstance; I just get the feeling characters could have been rounded out more, and give the film as a whole greater impact.
Perhaps I’m missing something. There is illustration of Richard struggling to come to terms with the aftermath of his actions, amid a lack of adult support or guidance.
I’d be interested to know Lenny Abrahamson’s views on Irish drinking culture: in almost every scene featuring Richard, including a family lunch and the rugby team gathering to mourn their teammate, there’s a drink in his hand.
I was thinking about this as I was cycling the following day. It’s Rag Week in the university, as heralded by students drinking in front gardens at 5 in the evening. On my way home from the gym, an hour later, a lone student fell into the road at the corner of the pavement, getting up again and walking off before I had a chance to pull in to check if he was OK.
I thought, perhaps the wonder of ‘What Richard Did’ is not the death of Brian Murphy fifteen years ago, but the fact that it doesn’t happen more often.