DIR: Niall Heery • WRI: Brendan Heery, Niall Heery • PRO: Tristan Lynch, Aoife O’Sullivan • DOP: Tim Fleming • ED: Tony Cranstoun • DES: Padraig O’Neill • MUS: Niall Byrne • CAST: David Wilmot, James Nesbitt, Kerry Condon, Maisie Williams
Niall Heery’s second feature-length film focuses on a semi-rural Irish family and how they cope when Alice’s (Kerry Condon) ex comes back into their life. Ray (David Wilmot) has returned to both connect with his daughter, Abbie (Maisie Williams), and visit his dying father. Twelve years since he abandoned Alice, she and Abbie have moved in with Ray’s former P.E teacher, Frank McGunn (James Nesbitt). Frank is driving his step-daughter to excel at track-and-field, and has his sights set on creating a new running technique that will “Change the lives of millions”.
Gold is a decent film, with some good qualities. One of the stand-out aspects of the film is Nesbitt’s performance as the self-obsessed and deluded Frank McGunn. Nesbitt’s performance here is real quality, and some of his lines are brilliant. (When they enter woods where Abbie runs, he warns, “One wrong move, they’ll be dragging you out in a body bag”). Perhaps the funniest facet of the film is his glorifying running videos, in which he discusses the life-changing running technique he has developed. These really show how driven and absurd his character is.
In general, the acting throughout the film is good. Condon gives a strong performance as McGunn’s overshadowed wife. It is clear that his infatuation with sport has made him forget the family he has. The film revolves around two major points. The first is how it tackles one of the biggest conundrum’s in Irish society today, the rise in suicide rates and, in particular, how it is still viewed as a taboo subject. The sense of shame people can feel at a family member committing or attempting suicide is well portrayed here. There is even the suggestion by one of Abbie’s friends that, since her biological father Ray attempted suicide, she is much more prone to attempting something similar in the future. It is also notable how the characters actually struggle to say the word suicide itself.
The other aforementioned facet is the pressures that Abbie is constantly under from her stepfather. It shows how unhealthy this can be for both parties involved, as Frank’s personal life has suffered, while Abbie ultimately cheats to give him the deluded thought that his new running technique is helping her improve. In a short space of time, he goes from thinking she has justified all his work to suddenly supporting her as she struggles just as Ray had before her.
However, the film does have its deficits. The above points, particularly the one on suicide, is not developed enough. When we are first made aware of the characters’ unease with the topic, it is expected that the film will primarily deal with the issue. However, as the film progresses, events take place that leave the viewer rather bemused as to what the film’s stand on suicide really is. Also, the fact that Alice, after being abandoned by Ray, moves in with his former P.E teacher, just seems completely implausible. While Condon gives a brilliant performance, the way her character is written and the choices she makes can make her seem odd.
The ending itself also feels strange as the film skips forward a few weeks and certain resolutions seem to come from nowhere. However, the film stands up well, with Heery’s directing very solid througout.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Gold is released 10th October 2014