A RUN OF THE COUNTRY starts off as a little, light, slice of life
movie, but by the end develops into full blown tragedy. It opens with
Danny's (Matt Keeslar) mom being put in the grave. It then switches to
a series of scenes of conflict between Danny and his father (Albert
Finney). Whenever things get bad for Danny, he wistfully flashes back
to happy times, laughing with his mother.
Danny's father is a police sergeant in a small town in Ireland
near the border with the North and hence near "The Troubles." His
father wants to get a juicy murder that only he can solve, but the best
he can do is find people killed by the IRA. He disgustedly remarks on
one killing that "This is a political murder, not an ordinary, decent
crime at all." Finney is equally disappointed with his son, reflecting
that "He's a dreamer, but dreamers don't pay the rent."
Danny soon gets feed up with his Dad who stays angry at him and
wants him to make something of his life and "go off to University" so
Danny leaves to stay with his friend Prunty known as Coco (Anthony
Brophy). The Coco character is broadly drawn and soon becomes a
caricature of a flaky friend. His costumes and make up are reminiscent
of a beggar in a Dickens play. This character is badly written (Shane
Connaughton) and poorly acted. Without him the movie would have been
much stronger. A typical scene with him is the bar room brawl one
where he picks a fight just for fun and people crawl under other
people's legs to escape. Its been done a thousand times before and
Connaughton's writing provides nothing fresh.
The director (Peter Yates) appears to encourage Finney to overact
at first as the movie starts quite unevenly. Eventually, Yates starts
to provide focus and the movie comes into its own after meandering for
about 20 minutes with a fairly boring, semi-slapstick tone. I was
surprised how quickly my opinion began to change from boredom to being
drawn into the story. The catalyst was the blossoming of the romance
between Danny and his new girlfriend, Annagh Lee (Victoria Smurfit) who
lives in Northern Ireland, but just a few miles from Danny's house.
Smurfit is a first time movie actress that has a smile and a sense of
inner confidence that mesmerizes her audience. Suddenly you care,
because you want to be Danny.
At this point, I thought the movie was going to be a romance.
Wrong. Although the romance was wonderful and lasted for quite some
time, the film is ultimately a tragedy that may make tears come to your
eyes. From the first, where Annagh declares that "You know our bodies
are just bags of fluid and bones. I don't think we have a long term
future on this planet", you begin to sense an impending doom. There is
also a little mystery along the way, but the writer telegraphs his
punches so well that most of the audience knows who it is.
For me the war part is an unnecessary complication, but I liked
almost all of the show. My main criticism, other than the Coco
character, is that I wish Yates had gone for either romance or tragedy,
but not both. It was almost like a two part Opera where the first act
is all sweetness and light and the second all dark and foreboding.
Nevertheless, I liked both parts.
The movie has fairly uninvolving cinematography which is a shame
given the material they have to work with. They filmed it on location
in County Cavan. Only the ending vistas while the credits are rolling
shows off Ireland at all. The sound effects editing was especially
good. The way they work the natural animal sounds into it, you want to
go live in a small village in the Irish countryside because it sounds
A RUN OF THE COUNTRY runs just about right at 1:50. It is rated R
for a little violence, some tasteful and beautifully done sex, and some
male and female nudity. It is a soft R, and I think it would be fine
for teenagers. I recommend the movie to you, and I award it ** 1/2.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes