‘Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy,’ according to the great Canadian philosopher and theorist Herbert Marshall McLuhan, but it is also a surety of grief. No one thinks he knows this better than William Keane (Damian Lewis), the searcher and unholy fool at the centre of Lodge H Kerrigan’s intense, spare and outstanding character study. Keane is a self-medicating schizophrenic wandering loose and wild eyed on the streets and in the transportation ante chambers of New Jersey’s dock area, with the alleged mission of finding the daughter he lost some months before. As self-abuse and degenerate sex give way to ever more deranged behaviour he finds some redemption in a friendship with equally displaced mum Kira (Abigail Breslin) and her cute as a button daughter Lynn (Amy Ryan), but some saviours arrive just too late in the day.
Kerrigan’s challenging, minimal reworking of Stephen Poliakoff’s and Charles Sturridge’s much overlooked 1983 film Runners feels like being at the wrong end of a particularly woeful, fetid, vex-filled outbreath. New York filmmaker Kerrigan (Clean, Shaven, Claire Dolan) belongs to that small group of US filmmakers who prize naturalism and cinematic honesty above all things and while stylistically Keane is closer to the work of the Dardenne Brothers and Robert Bresson before them, Kerrigan is really just returning to the disturbing scope of first film Clean, Shaven (schizophrenia and daughters figure heavily here too). One can’t help feeling, however, that maybe Keane is more a strangulated cry from the writer/director who had previously spent a year making a Soderberg-produced film In God’s Hands starring Peter Sarsgaard and Maggie Gyllenhaal, only to realise, after wrapping, that the film had been shot out of focus.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 22 Sep.