What Richard Did (3 stars)

What Richard Did

A technically proficient but slow-paced, bleak Irish drama inspired by real events

A weighty mix of suspense, thriller and sombre social commentary, this Irish drama follows the fallout from a teen party in the drunken aftermath of which a boy is beaten and killed. Lenny Abrahamson’s film is based on Kevin Power’s 2008 novel Bad Day in Blackrock, which in turn drew its inspiration from a real-life case that shocked Dublin in 2000.

In this fictionalised version, the focus is Richard (Jack Reynor), whose good looks and prowess in sport and academic areas alike make him everybody’s golden boy. But Richard has his Achilles heel: accustomed to getting whatever he wants, he is thrown when his new girlfriend Lara (Roisin Murphy) shows signs of pining for her ex, Conor (Sam Keeley). Richard’s social set is from Dublin’s upper social echelons – Conor pointedly nicknames him ‘Super-Rich' – and is heavily Anglicised and, in Richard’s case at least, Protestant. Lara and Conor are from less well-off Catholic families whose members are prone, much to Richard’s embarrassment, to bursting into Irish folk songs. Whatever the underlying implications of these differences (and the film is quite coy about its positioning), when Richard’s jealousy kicks in, his temper quickly gets him into trouble.

Performances are strong, with Reynor in particular raising his character’s tension levels gradually towards a Hulk-like state of terror and rage. But it must be said that that build is very, very slow, because the film is very, very slow. It feels almost impolite to critique the narrative pace of such an earnest and thoughtful study of moral responsibility – but it is hard to keep hold of the momentum, so little is there in the way of sub-plotting or leavening wit.

Abrahamson’s previous two films, Garage and Adam & Paul, were bleak tales also, but found a fierce funny bone in their stories; this is as skilful in technical terms, but narratively ever so much more of a slog.

Selected release from Fri 11 Jan.

What Richard Did Official Trailer

What Richard Did

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • Ireland
  • 1h 24min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
  • Cast: Jack Reynor, Róisín Murphy, Sam Keeley
  • UK release: 11 January 2013

Dark coming of age drama set in South Dublin.