Clumsy supernatural drama featuring Robert Sheehan and Joely Richardson
Robert Sheehan sees dead people and they turn out to be a real drag in this po-faced yet sometimes comically mishandled supernatural drama from David Blair, which riffs on The Sixth Sense and Ghost but which forgoes the poltergeists and pottery for a waftyness all its own. Sheehan (who was so terrific in TV's Misfits) plays Jack, a young outcast harangued by restless spirits looking to contact their loved ones.
The Messenger tries to cultivate character by laying the stylish tics on thick (distractingly askew camera angles, frequent flashbacks) but most of the elements are at odds. The crude script from Andrew Kirk (whose CV mostly comprises Emmerdale episodes) brings this supposedly ethereal effort crashing to earth, the stilted interactions and insipid score nobble attempts at poignancy, while the preponderance of plummy accents works against the gritty location. Meanwhile, its protagonist is a scruffy fella prone to furious roaming and inarticulate rants not a shimmering enigma, which is the way he's often shot. When Jack is visited by the spirit of a murdered war reporter, Mark (Jack Fox), the effect is weird, as if Shameless' Frank Gallagher has befriended a posh ghost.
As our troubled hero is drawn into Mark's tangled past, he starts to resemble a psychic Columbo but the crime story is quickly abandoned in favour of Jack's, considerably more tedious, mental angst. The Messenger is thinly drawn and poorly paced, there's precious little suspense, while the story is so predictable and laboriously imparted that you'll be willing characters to get to the point. Attempts to invest events with at least some idiosyncrasy are to be applauded and, on paper, the cast – which also includes Joely Richardson, Lily Cole and David O'Hara – looks intriguing; it's just such a shame that the results are so comprehensively clumsy. The message, unfortunately, is steer clear.
Selected release from Fri 18 Sep.