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Ireland 2012
Directed by
Lenny Abrahamson
88 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

What Richard Did

it has a simple premise but in the hands of director Lenny Abrahamson What Richard Did is an engrossing drama. Based on the real life death of a teenager outside a Dublin nightclub, subsequently  fashioned into a novel “Bad Day in Blackrock” by Kevin Power, it is a story that could happen anywhere in the world and that is part of the film’s appeal – we can all identify with the moral dilemma at its core

Richard (Jack Reynor) is a young man with everything going for him. From a well-to-do family he’s the boy-most-likely. That is, until during an alcohol-fueled brawl he brutally kicks and accidentally kills Conor (Sam Keeley), his rival for the affections of Lara (Roisin Murphy).  

For the first half of the film Abrahamson adopts a naturalistic, seemingly unscripted, approach showing us Richard and his friends as typical middle-class suburban adolescents, hanging out, getting smashed, and having fun in the summer break between high school and university. The turnaround comes with the party and Richard’s jealous outburst that precipitates the fatal blow. We then get into the more scripted substance of the film which is the question of what Richard does and/or should do, and, thereby ,the question “who is Richard really?”

Abrahamson takes a deliberately understated approach to the material, focusing on Richard’s behaviour rather than attempting verbal explication.  Reynor is especially good in portraying the young man’s responses – his attempts to rationalize his vicious act,  then his lies and his bluffing, and his remorse as he sinks deeper into the abyss, one from which, to his credit, Abrahamson does not readily give him, or us, release.

Where the film feels somewhat wanting is in the reactions of the support characters. The response from Richard’s father seems improbable, his mother doesn’t get a look in. That his friends willingly close rank is understandable but Lara seems too acquiescent.  Admittedly this would be a risky proposition and perhaps even destroy what has been achieved but it makes the film and the tragedy that it deals with feel too too contained.




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