Gemma Creagh reviews Nowhere Special, a true story about a terminally-ill father who attempts to find a new home for his young son.

Set in Belfast, John (James Norton, Happy Valley, McMafia) is a single, hard-working window cleaner who lives for his inquisitive four-year-old, Michael (Daniel Lamont). As John’s health begins to deteriorate, their simple, day-to-day routine, such as going to the park, eating grapes, fighting over pyjamas, are weighted with the inevitable loss of what’s to come. John’s days are punctuated with visits from well-meaning care workers, as well as a string of interviews with potential parents for Michael after he’s gone. 

Meeting with this eclectic array of families – a rich couple with plans to send Michael to boarding school, a postman who hates dogs when all Michael wants is a puppy, a fussy woman and her browbeaten, train-enthusiast husband – starts to worry John. He begins to question if he knows his son well enough to decide what he needs. With time running out, John’s forced to make the most important decision of his life. 

In a restrained, subtle manner, this film examines those big questions, looking at legacy and responsibility. What does a child really need when growing up? What are you leaving behind when you leave this world? Nowhere Special uses the immersive visual environment and natural soundscape of the city to convey John’s thoughts. Norton’s strong, interior performance teamed with the warm, truthful chemistry between himself and the impressive young talent Lamont, layers even the simplest of scenes with emotion. The lack of dialogue in those key moments is a powerful choice by the filmmaker. 

Yet, Uberto Pasolini, a bubbly, older Italian aristocrat and The Full Monty producer, would be the last man you’d pick from a line-up to tell this story authentically. After reading an article in the Daily Mail about a 40-year-old father who spent the last few months of life searching for a home for his child, Pasolini was inspired to make this film. Duty and legacy are clearly themes he’s drawn to, gauging by his 2013 feature starring Eddie Marsan, Still Life. While the subject matter of Nowhere Special is not the lightest, thanks to Pasolini’s deft hand coupled with Norton’s nuanced performance, the film is engaging and easy to watch. It avoids being maudlin at all costs, instead celebrating John and Michael’s relationship, and finding joy in small moments. This thoughtful film is a quiet gem that captures the beauty, complexities and of life, warts and all.

Nowhere Special is released on video on demand and in cinemas on 16th July 2021.


Gemma Creagh is a writer, filmmaker and journalist. In 2014 she graduated with a First from NUIG’s MA Writing programme. Gemma’s play Spoiling Sunset was staged in Galway as part of the Jerome Hynes One Act Play series in 2014. Gemma was one of eight playwrights selected for AboutFACE’s 2021 Transatlantic Tales and is presently developing a play with the Axis Theatre and with the support of the Arts Council. She has been commissioned to submit a play by Voyeur Theatre to potentially be performed in Summer 2023 as part of the local arts festival. Gemma was the writer and co-producer of the five-part comedy Rental Boys for RTÉ’s Storyland. She has gone on to write, direct and produce shorts which screened at festivals around the world. She was commissioned to direct the short film, After You, by Filmbase and TBCT. Gemma has penned articles for magazines, industry websites and national newspapers, she’s the assistant editor for Film Ireland and she contributes reviews to RTE Radio One’s Arena on occasion.

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