Middletown

Movie Review by Zoe Fox

Starring: Matthew Macfadyen, Eva Birthistle, Daniel Mays, Gerard McSorley

Director: Brian Kirk

A religious thriller set in Ireland. Reverend Gabriel Hunter, played by Matthew Macfayden, returns to his hometown to become the local priest, only to find that the place has, as far as he’s concerned turned to sin. The local pub now opens on a Sunday, where they hold cockfights. Gabriel sees himself as the town saviour, and begins to bully the towns’ folk pitting them against one another.

Unfortunately this comes across as something more of yet another dark and dismal Irish drama, and I say drama rather than thriller because there is nothing in this film that particularly thrills you apart from the music, which doesn’t fell like it really fits well as it stands out somewhat. Quite frankly coming from the director of BAFTA nominated FUNLAND you expect a lot more.

There are decent performances from Daniel May, who plays Jim Hunter and Eva Birthistle as Caroline, Jim’s wife. Eva plays a strong, independently minded woman, unwilling to be dictated to, especially under the premise of ‘fear of god’. However we are given no reason as to why she has such an aversion to the church and considering the time and location that the film is set in, this leaves a hole in the characters background.

Daniel Mays performance as Jim, who is in many ways the substitute son as Gabriel is sent to train in the holy church while he is left behind to work the family business, is a source of constant disappointment to his father, he is constantly vying for his fathers love over his, until recently absent, brother. Jim is a man who always turns to his fists, generally with little or no provocation. It comes too easily though as you see no inner struggle to control his temper.

It is hard to really identify with any of the main characters with the exception of the father played by Gerard McSorley. He manages to convey his confusion and turmoil as he tries to ‘do the right thing’ by both of his sons, consequently meaning he has to choose one over the other. By the tiniest change in facial expression he is able to draw you in, so that you feel for him and truly believe in the character.

Matthew Macfayden, who played Tom Quinn in the BBC TV series SPOOKS, is rather disappointing as the Reverend Gabriel Hunter. On the whole it is not a bad performance, but at the same time it does not stand out as a particularly good performance either, and in times of heightened drama however he begins to come across as a little bit camp instead of frightened, upset or angry.

In the final moments of the film Gabriel, realising his mistake, ultimately repents by throwing himself at the mercy of his brother and asks him to finish him because he cannot face the reality of what he has done. This is an assumption though as the scene misses its target spectacularly as a penultimate, and with no build up to really speak of the final scene leaves you feeling unaffected and unsatisfied.

The main emotion of this film is badly conveyed meaning that the end is far more abrupt than it should be. It jumps too quickly through the story leaving you behind as an audience and with such a promising cast not delivering, as we know they have the potential to do, the film leaves you cold.

1 out of 6 stars

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