Eoin O’ Callaghan hooks up with The Randomer, which screened at the Cork Film Festival.
What does The Randomer, screened as part of the 61st Cork Film Film Festival, have to say about life in contemporary Dublin? Quite a lot, actually—and much of it points to the bright future of filmmaking in Ireland. The brainchild of students in the Filmbase Masters in Digital Feature Film Production, and written by their established mentor Gerry Stembridge (Ordinary Decent Criminal, About Adam), The Randomer presents a contemporary, sophisticated look at seemingly well-trodden topics: the battlefield of sex, dating and children.
Meg Daly (George Hanover), a college lecturer recently turned the apparently fake age of 39, has, heretofore, spent her nights cruising the bars and nightclubs of Dublin, avoiding talk of the biological clock from her philoprogenitive sister Regina (Caoimhe O’ Malley). However, Meg’s rapidly diminishing thirty-something status, along with renewed exposure to her nieces and nephews, leads her to question the viability of this lifestyle and to sever ties with sleepy boyfriend Teddy (John Lynn). With the help of her neighbours Roberta and Shirley—a lesbian couple played by Siobhán Cullen and Neilí Conroy—Meg plots the means by which she will become a mother; in all probability by cornering the eponymous ‘randomer.’
Refreshingly, The Randomer does not succumb to some of the tired tropes of on-screen dating in 2016. There’s no supposedly ‘trendy’ nods to the emerging role of Facebook and Tinder in meeting people, for example, and Meg’s interactions with the potential randomers—even the misguided hook-ups—are face-to-face encounters, as opposed to the millennial wave of smartphone-heavy portrayals; no Catfish-style antics here. As such, The Randomer is unlikely to feel dated, years from now: it’s pleasingly technology-free, lending it a maturity often lacking in films of this type. The Ireland depicted elsewhere is, however, firmly planted in 2016: it’s broad-minded and modern. Meg’s lesbian neighbours have a child of their own, and her primary objective in the film is to attain single mother status. Independence, and a career, are positive, forward-thinking motivations for a female lead in a romantic comedy (particularly in light of mainstream, American output, constantly in search of Prince Charming).
Of course, Meg’s trials and tribulations are convincing, and relatable, because of Hanover’s performance and likeability; particularly in her more subdued scenes with Ray (Daryl McCormack). It is testament to Hanover’s accomplished performance that the film, which never deviates from her perspective (she is almost a permanent fixture on screen), never slows or bores over the course of its 82 minutes, and she ably conveys the lingering doubts—and excitement—that characterise every step of the transition from singledom to pre-motherhood. Other notable turns are those of McCormack and and Lynn—the latter’s somnambulistic ramblings perfectly illustrating the lifestyle that he and Meg had led up until now: blissfully unaware of time’s rapid passing.
Flaws—none of which are glaring—are to be found in some clichéd decisions. The disparity between The Randomer’s ‘timeless yet modern’ look at Irish life and its multiple generic commonplaces is somewhat disappointing: predictably, Meg’s less successful encounters with potential randomers ‘underperform,’ and her endeavours to care for her neighbour’s child are rote, Three Men and a Baby-style misadventures. And even if the lesbian couple are a welcome addition, they conform to at least two stereotypes: that of the agony aunts/comic relief sidekicks, par for the course in every romantic comedy; and the ‘odd couple’ pairing (one’s foul-mouthed and boisterous; the other’s delicate and sentimental). Elsewhere, despite the evocative storyline and diverse characters, the film lacks vibrancy and colour; grey and undersaturated, the look of the film is incongruent with the relatively upbeat and comic proceedings.
None of these problems keep the film from being a success, however (both artistic and financial: the screening at the Cork Film Festival was a sell-out). While marketed as a comedy, The Randomer’s most memorable moments are the dramatic, restrained scenes, and Hanover’s chemistry with her male counterparts is palpable throughout: a late-in-the-day encounter between Meg and previous suitor Teddy is a particular standout for both actors and writers. Oh, and with regards to life in contemporary Dublin, as mentioned in the outset, there appears to be an underlying message about the lack of adequate, affordable accommodation. Meg’s first lines are part of a lecture on housing, and her pregnancy plans—despite a flourishing college career–necessitate a move to a decidedly less grand apartment.
Here’s to this group of Filmbase students, and their future productions—however random.
The Randomer screened on 16th November 2016 as part of the Cork Film Festival 2016 (11 – 20 November)