Calm with Horses
Stars: Cosmo Jarvis, Barry Keoghan, Ned Denehhy, Niamh Algar
Adapted from the novella by Colin Barrett, this very impressive debut from director Rowland is a gripping and bruising drama. Set in a scuzzy rural West Ireland it tracks the downward spiral of the brutish but broadly well-intentioned ‘Arm’ (Jarvis from ‘Lady Macbeth’), a disgraced former boxer turned heavy for the local drug-dealing crime family, the Danvers, who are headed by the psychotic Paudi (Dennehy). Paudi’s repellent nephew Dympna (a typically great Keoghan) is Arm’s companion and handler who makes sure his charge does as he’s told. Arm’s ex-girlfriend Ursula (Algar), while sympathetic, maintains a safe distance for the sake of their five-year-old son Jack (Moroney). Arm tries to be a good father but struggles with his son’s severe autism. When one of the Danvers’s associates is accused of molestation it’s up to Arm to enact revenge on their behalf, but a last minute change of heart puts him at odds with the family. Gripping, harrowing and funny (the latter two sometimes simultaneously) the film boasts an extraordinary central performance from Jarvis in which he is able to summon up ‘On the Waterfront’-era Brando levels of intensity and vulnerability as a man plagued by bad luck and worse decisions. Director Rowland imbues the proceedings with a clammy sense of dread and grim inevitability while an unnerving electronic score by Blanck Mass adds to the unease.