DIR: Conor McDermottroe • WRI: Conor McDermottroe, Mark O’Halloran • PRO: Hermann Florin, Ailish McElmeel • DOP: Mel Griffith • ED: Alexander Dittner, Constantin von Seld • DES: Conor Dennison • MUS: Matthias Weber • CAST: Sarah Bolger, Colm Meaney, Art Malik
Mark O’Halloran is a good thing for the Irish film industry. The writer of such films as Adam & Paul, Garage and Viva, he is skilled at crafting engaging stories – ones in which the audience wholeheartedly sympathise with people whose lives seem outside the norm. With his tales of heroin addicts, individuals with intellectual disabilities and drag queens, O’Halloran deftly manages to place his viewers in his lead characters’ worlds – all while at the same time addressing socio-political issues.
O’Halloran’s latest screenplay, comedy-drama Halal Daddy (co-written with director Conor McDermottroe), does not reach the heights of his previous work. Yet, traces of his talent in depicting the lives of so-called outsiders remains. Nikesh Patel stars as Raghdan, an Indian Muslim who flees an arranged marriage orchestrated by his father, Amir (Art Malik). He finds his feet in Sligo – staying with his uncle Jamal (Paul Tylak) and his wife Doreen (Deirdre O’Kane) and forming a relationship with local girl, Maeve (Sarah Bolger, very good).
However, Raghdan’s past catches up with him when Amir journeys to Sligo – hoping to open the county’s first Halal butchers. Maeve’s father, Martin (Colm Meaney), becomes embroiled in the father-son feud when he is employed at the meat factory.
On the positive front, the film manages to mine a significant amount of pleasant humour from its culture clash premise. There is a fun comedic juxtaposition between the local Irish population delivering comments that should be offensive but with absolutely no venom or malign intent. Halal Daddy depicts a modern increasingly tolerant Ireland, but one with still some room to improve. Examples include Doreen saying to Raghdan after he’s been absent a while: “We were beginning to think you’d been radicalised” or Maeve’s younger sisters whispering the word “ISIS” loudly in the presence of her boyfriend. Even with these racially loaded comments, it’s nice that the Sligo of the film is filled with people of various ethnicities and sexual preferences – things which threaten to become issues within the drama but ultimately never do.
However, what drags the movie down is a reliance on broad gags and characters and an oddly paced narrative. Jokes about Doreen and Jamal’s Fifty Shades inspired sex-life – despite typically solid work from O’Kane – feel not only feel tired but from a different film entirely. Meanwhile, one moment the story’s focus is on Raghdan gaining his father’s acceptance, the next it’s about him trying to win his girlfriend back (the reason he lost her briefly is another creaky old-fashioned plot-point one can see a mile coming). Plus in regards the film’s denouement, the resolution of the drama has very little to do with the main conceit regarding the titular Halal with the film abandoning the abattoir plot in its final twenty minutes.
Halal Daddy is an amiable, occasionally charming movie. Yet, its not a patch on recent Irish dramas of a similar nature like Sing Street, Mad Mary or Handsome Devil. Despite its timely ethnic slant, the film – on account of some shoe-horned jokes and predictable plot-points – lacks the emotional core of these superior works. One buys into the overly perfect happy ending of Sing Street because the previous ninety or so minutes were so engaging that the viewer is invested. When Halal Daddy literally ends with a spontaneous firework display, it feels a little ridiculous because one isn’t as involved with the characters.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Halal Daddy is released 28th June 2017