Calm with Horses (4 stars)

Calm with Horses

Cosmo Jarvis is compellingly cast in Nick Rowland's raw, atmospheric crime drama

Cosmo Jarvis (Lady Macbeth, Farming) is the stand-out in Calm With Horses, an impressive first feature from director Nick Rowland, written by Joseph Murtagh and based on a short story by Colin Barrett. Bulking up for the part, Jarvis plays retired boxer Douglas 'Arm' Armstrong, the kind of hulking brute that you might cross the street to avoid.

Jarvis brings a glowering physical presence to the role. There is a simmering anger in Arm that constantly threatens to boil over into actions he might regret. But there is brain as well as brawn in the character and that's what makes him such a heartbreaker. He has a yearning to become a better man and a good father. His physique and the life he leads stack the odds against him.

There are echoes of Of Mice and Men in Arm's relationship with Dympna (American Animals' Barry Keoghan), a manipulative, ambitious drug dealer who requires Arm to settle any arguments. He claims to be acting in his best interests but that reasoning is wearing thin. Dympna is the one who drips words of poison into his ear. He leads him down a path of violence and torn loyalties from which there seems to be no return.

The sensitive side of Arm blossoms in the company of his five-year-old son Jack (Kiljan Moroney) who is on the autism spectrum. Arm melts with tenderness in the presence of the boy and wrestles with the sacrifices that might be required to give his son and ex Ursula (Niamh Algar) a decent future.

Set in a bleak rural Ireland choked with mud and despair, Calm With Horses is a raw, atmospheric drama marbled with black comedy and bursts of shocking brutality. It marks Rowland as a talent to watch and confirms Jarvis as one of the most compelling actors of his generation.

General release from Fri 13 Mar.

Calm With Horses

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • UK
  • 1h 41min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Nick Rowland
  • Cast: Barry Keoghan, Ned Dennehy, Anthony Welsh, Cosmo Jarvis

Arm (Jarvis) is a retired boxer who has a yearning to be a better man and a good father, but is manipulated by drug dealer Dympna (Keoghan). Impressive debut feature from Rowland, set in a rural Ireland choked with mud and despair, marbled with black comedy and bursts of shocking brutality.