Movie Review - What Richard Did

Jack Reynor in "What Richard Did"
The Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTA) is the most prestigious ceremony in Ireland for entertainment media based there. What Richard Did was nominated for 11 IFTA Awards. It won five, including Best Actor for Jack Reynor, beating Colin Farrell in Seven Psychopaths. It also won Best Script, Best Editing, Best Director for Lenny Abrahamson, beating Martin McDonagh for Seven Psychopaths. It also won Best Film.

I guess I can't ignore the news that put this film into a significant spotlight in the United States more than these awards. A couple of movie web sites cited What Richard Did as one of the best movies to play at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. However, what really places this film center stage is the fact that its young Irish star, Jack Reynor, was cast in the new Michael Bay movie Transformers 4. Reynor will presumably be filling the void left by Shia LaBeouf.

Apparently, Bay cast Reynor based on the strength of his performance in What Richard Did. The movie was made in Ireland where it opened last year to pretty rave reviews, but Bay's singling Reynor out and elevating him in one swell move also elevates this small independent film's profile. At least, it did so for me. Despite playing in New York, it helps that Tribeca Film made this movie available on demand because now people can easily see what others have seen. People can see how great an actor Reynor is.

The IFTA Awards nominated Jack Reynor for its Rising Star Award. The London Critics Film Awards (ALFS) nominated Jack Reynor for Young British Performer of the Year. It's no question as to why. A movie like What Richard Did lives and dies on the performance of its central actor who is in every scene and who absolutely carries this whole thing. The gentility and grace of its director also helps, allowing the kind of freedom necessary for the characters and story to breath and for pure emotion to bleed through the screen. That's what Reynor does. He bleeds through the screen.

Jack Reynor plays Richard, a 18-year-old rugby player who is on holiday with his friends. They drive up to a nice vacation home where they stay for a while. They go to several parties. They hang out with a few girls. They drink. They talk. They laugh, and everyone naturally gravitates toward Richard because Richard is charming. He's smart and funny. He's good-looking and he's a best mate who cares for others.

Richard starts to date a beautiful girl named Lara, played by Roisin Murphy. He connects with her at the first beach party that he and his friends attend. His romance with her is sweet and lovely, but some things aren't all right. There's some awkwardness between Richard and another guy named Conor, played by Sam Keeley. This awkwardness brings out some insecurity and some other issues within Richard that seem to have been there prior, but he hides it well by being so charming and talkative.

Yet, there are moments when Richard is by himself and he's quiet that reveals how much of a facade he may put up or how much of an act he may play. He's not all smiles and he can get bothered, but, regardless, Richard is presented with two intense situations and how he handles those situations is the true test of him. At the end of the day, it shows a type of selfishness or privilege that Richard might have.

Reynor is brilliant. He's magnetic. You can't take your eyes off him. Director Lenny Abrahamson certainly can't take his camera off him. It's not because Abrahamson is fawning but because Reynor is almost demanding. It is compelling to watch him take Richard from being the life of the party to being someone who no one wants to be around. Reynor totally deconstructs this young man and exposes Richard's emotional core so close if not nakedly.

Based on the book Bad Day in Blackrock by Kevin Power, which is a fictionalized account of a real-life event that happened in Dublin in 2000, screenwriter Malcolm Campbell is pretty straight-forward in keeping the narrative strictly in Richard's head and his point-of-view. Abrahamson doesn't seem to shepherd that point-of-view in a heavy-handed way. He gives Reynor so much room. He gives his actor great space and Reynor uses that space to either stand tall or explode.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 29 mins.


Popular Posts