Lift is an enjoyable comical riff on the sub-genre of people trapped for an entire movie in a confined setting. Directed by Conor Armstrong Sanfey and written by Kealan Ryan, the film is an expansion on the premise of an episode from the two’s show Mick & Jay Talk. Fiach Kunz plays Sean, a young man who enters into an office building and attacks one of the security guards. While Sean attempts to escape by elevator, the guard activates an emergency brake on his “getaway” and then passes out. Trapped in the lift, Sean’s frustration is increased by the countless other people in the cramped space – including work buddies Mick and Jay (Stephen Gorman, Kealan Ryan) and Mick’s work-crush Fiona (Hannah Crowley)
What is most commendable about Lift is how natural the performances are and how good the chemistry is between the lead actors. It is clear from the outset that Gorman and Ryan are comfortable in their dynamic because the banter between them is genuinely funny, even when the jokes are a little predictable. The sub-plot involving Mick trying to impress Fiona, to the chagrin of everybody else within their vicinity, works because Jay’s motor mouth insults clash so well against Mick’s nice-guy shyness.
The script, despite some moments such as the Mick-Fiona plot which feel more like a sitcom than a movie, is fast and witty. Ryan never lets a moment last too long where characters aren’t saying something humorous. Even when the movie slows down for a brief period and everyone in the lift begins to discuss annoying movie clichés, it’s a nicely meta and entertaining conversation.
Veteran Irish actor Gerard McSorley (The Boxer, Veronica Guerin) also puts in a fine turn as Sean’s warm and kind grand-father Eddy, appearing in flashbacks. On top of the fact that it’s great to see McSorley play against type, his character, despite the fact he is removed from the movie’s claustrophobic premise, gradually becomes integral to the plot. Although it appears, at first, that Eddy’s only function is to help one empathise with Sean, he becomes more fleshed out as the drama progresses and is actually the key to Sean’s actions in the movie’s opening.
The film builds to this climactic set-piece which, although stretches credibility, works well in terms of comedy and is sentimental but not irksomely so. It’s understandable how Lift has swept awards at various Indie film festivals across the world. Made with a reported €30,000 budget, it’s amusing, well-played and serves as an effective calling card for all involved.