DIR: Kieron J. Walsh • WRI: Steve Brookes, Kieron J. Walsh • PRO: Brendan J. Byrne • DOP: David Rom • ED: Emer Reynolds • DES: David Craig • Cast: Nichola Burley, Martin McCann, Charlene McKenna, Ciarán McMenamin
It’s a real testament to how far Northern Ireland has come that a film like Jump has been made. It’s set exclusively in the North – Derry, to be exact – and there isn’t a single reference to the IRA, the UVF, the Troubles. Not only that, it doesn’t feel like there’s a pink elephant in the room. None of the characters are haunted by memories of that time, there are no former terrorists looking to go straight, no mention of it at all. With Jump, you merely accept the fact that Northern Ireland and its cinema has moved on from it.
The story takes place on New Year’s Eve and follows four ‘twenty-somethings’ and their individual problems and hang-ups. Marie (Charlene McKenna) and Dara (Valene Kane) play two young women, stuck in a rut working McJobs whilst yearning to escape the city and emigrate to Australia. Johnny, played by Good Vibrations’ Richard Dormer, is a washed-up former criminal who’s drinking himself into an early grave whilst racked with guilt. Pearse and Greta, Martin McCann and Nichola Burley respectively, play two young people with an apparent death-wish; although one is more overt than the other. Over the course of the film, these stories entangle and, naturally, come to a head. The story and character echo late 90’s comedy-crime thriller Go, but with an obvious Irish twist.
Kieron J. Walsh’s direction is confident, slick and assured and working with a tightly-written script, there’s little error to be found in the film. The break-neck pacing, interspersed with jump-cuts to each individual story, is great to see. Too often, Irish films are shackled with a slow-burn ethos and very little sense of fun or humour. Jump deftly breaks this cycle and makes something that is fun, relevant and enjoyable to watch. There are no morose-looking countrysides, no dead-eyed piece-to-camera monologues involving the death of the Irish way of life – here, it’s fast, fun and energetic; something Irish cinema desperately needs.
The cast, made up of TV actors, all fill out their performances with varying levels of quality but maintain a minimum standard. The chemistry between Marie and Dara is spot-on, mixing the vapid desires of partying and escape with a real sense of underlying sadness. Richard Dormer’s character is a little bit hammy in places, but the fault is more in the dialogue than his own performance. However, it’s a small complaint in an otherwise strong performance. Primeval‘s Ciaran McMenamin, playing Ross – the man charged with following Dormer’s character around to ensure he works – compliments Dormer’s performance. The one area where Jump falls down is the story between Pearse and Greta. In a sense, it is the catalyst for the whole story but it feels more like it was tacked on as an afterthought. Likewise, the performance from Nichola Burley is a little bit unconvincing in places. Still, overall the characters and actors portraying them have filled out their roles with real effort.
In all, Jump is an entertaining drama with strains of black comedy and thriller moments. It’s not exactly memorable, but like all good parties, when you’re in it, it’s the best fun you’ll have.