DIR: Rob Burke, Ronan Burke • WRI: Pierce Ryan • PRO: John Wallace • DOP: David Grennan • ED: Tony Kearns, John Murphy • DES: Emma Lowney • MUS: David Sinclair • CAST: Brian Gleeson, Jessica Paré, Stanley Townsend, Francesca Cherruault
Rom-coms and the Irish don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. We’re not big into sweeping romantic gestures here; they’ll just get you grief from the lads down the pub. Standing in the rain whilst delivering a relationship-affirming monologue? Sure, you’ll catch your death of cold. Perhaps it’s because there’s a distinct lack of authenticity in these Hollywood romances. In reality relationships are hard-work, full of little awkward moments and compromise. In that sense, Standby is very much a ‘realistic’ rom-com. Oh, it has cheese to spare but Gleeson’s and Paré’s dynamic gives this film a layer of thoughtfulness that is sadly lacking from its mainstream counterparts.
Alan (Gleeson) is in a bit of a slump. He’s quickly approaching his thirties, was left at the alter by his fiancé, fired from his affluent banking job, is living at home with his Dad (Townsend) and restless with unfulfilled musical ambitions. It’s a situation all Generation Y-ers can depressingly relate to.
Working with his mum in a part-time job as a tourist advisor in Dublin Airport, a chance twist of fate finds Alan face to face with Alice (Paré), the girl he had fallen in love with eight years prior while working for a summer in America. When the summer ended, however, Alan left and never returned, thus putting an end to their blossoming relationship. Stuck on standby for a flight home to New York – and experiencing similar artistic frustrations – Alan manages to convince Alice to stay the night with him so they can have a much needed catch up with one another. She agrees, after some understandable hesitation, and so our protagonists embark on a Ulysses-like journey of self-discovery around the fair city of Dublin. A bit of a stretch perhaps but this is a film as much about Dublin as it is about its core couple’s relationship. The capital is looking its best here and the audience is brought from one end of the city to another and back again throughout the course of the film. We fall in love with Dublin as we do with the characters. Plus, one always gets a sense of strange satisfaction when recognising a location used on screen.
That said Alan and Alice’s relationship is what really makes the film work. In short, it feels genuine. They’re both different people from who they were eight years ago when they first met and so the film dedicates some time for the two to get to know one another again. It’s a little strained at first and they both tell some fibs to save face – Alan pretends he’s in a loving long-term relationship with his co-worker and Alice claims her non-existent work life is flourishing. This of course makes for some pretty inevitable reveals and ‘I-can’t-believe-you-lied-to-me’ arguments but these scenes are handled surprisingly well, mainly thanks to Gleeson’s and Paré’s delivery. In fact, throughout the entire film directors Rob and Ronan Burke take the conventions of the rom-com genre and manage to make them seem fresh- not an easy feat. There’s an overarching formula at work here but the Burke brothers are not afraid to play around with audience expectations in the middle scenes. The banter between the characters feels like something you would overhear in an average Dublin pub and never comes across as hackneyed, which unfortunately some other Irish films are prone to do.
There’s also some interesting commentary about how we tend to approach the battle of the sexes as an ‘us vs them’ type scenario when in reality it takes two to make a successful relationship. Again, this is not a new concept but the film seems to take this question seriously rather than just see it as a chance for some gendered-stereotype humour.
Overall, this is a very charming film. Gleeson and Paré make for an unusual yet undoubtedly endearing couple as they come to find that what they shared before never really died. All the cast deliver engaging performances- and a particular shout out to Francesca Cherruault as the been-there-done-that Beatrice who had many in the cinema laughing at loud multiple times.
Standby brings a breath of fresh air to the rom-com genre and leaves on it a decisively Irish stamp. A must watch.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Standby is released 7th November 2014
Standby – Official Website