Alan Shalvey reports from Declan Recks’ The Truth Commissioner, which screened at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.
The Truth Commissioner is a hard-hitting drama dealing with the dark history of Northern Ireland. Henry Stanfield (Roger Allam) stars as the title character, looking to bring justice to the families of loved ones who perished during the Troubles. Of particular interest is the case of Conor Roche, a young man killed by the IRA whose killer has remained unnamed. Threats and corruption ensue as Henry tries to unearth the identity of the murderer, and the film builds to a memorable climax.
The Truth Commissioner begins powerfully, showing the time leading up to Roche’s death, leaving a looming doubt over the audience as to who it was that pulled the trigger. What is most striking in the opening minutes is both the score and the cinematography. The minimalist approach taken by Niall Byrne for the film’s score brilliantly adds to the underlying tension that exists within the movie. This musical approach merges elegantly with the opening shots. Of particular note are the rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror of the car bringing Conor to where we presume will be his death. The interesting use of religious imagery highlights the devastating effects religion had in Northern Ireland, taking decades for wounds to heal.
The movie is beautiful to look at, and also features stellar acting from the cast. Of particular note are the performances of Tom Goodman-Hill, playing Jake Marston, and Conleth Hill, whose performance as Johnny Rafferty oozes class. Goodman-Hill is arguably the star of the show however. His solid performance is central to the overall construction of the films atmosphere. Acting as the messenger between Henry and those who are threatening him should the truth come out, Jake makes it very clear to Harry the level of unwanted attention he is drawing to himself, and uses methods both fair and foul to detour him from his job.
The fleshing out of Henry’s backstory also helps add a degree of gravitas to the character, and the relationship between his daughter and Conor Roche’s sister (Simone Kirby) serves as an important motivation for his character. Having had a struggling relationship with his daughter most of his life, and being rather keen to make amends, it serves as the counterpoint to his offers from the men who want their involvement in the murder to remain unknown.
Overall, the film is a good production, with the opening period and final thirty minutes being particularly noteworthy. The writing is very solid and well crafted, and the finished product, while not being perfect, is well worth a watch. As the truth commission begins to tackle the case of Conor’s death, the tension and drama of the film reach new heights, and the scenes in which witnesses testify about Conor’s murder are arguably the best in the film. A powerful commentary on the devastation terrorist groups can leave on society, the film, despite perhaps being slightly week around the middle section, is well worth watching.
The Truth Commissioner screened on 21st February 2016 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (18 – 28 February)