Dir. Niall Heery, Ireland, 2006, 102 mins
Cast: Iain Glenn, Steven Mackintosh, Laurence Kinlan
Review by Carol Allen
Despite being set and filmed in Ireland, if you didn't know that fact, you might think this unusual view of the Emerald Isle was a story about an Irish immigrant community in the US or Canada. The story is set in the very untypically Irish landscape of a small, working class logging community, buried in pine forests and dominated by pick-up trucks, neon lights and other trappings of middle America, while the passions of the predominately male community are deer hunting and country music, the latter being a cultural phenomenon which, it appears, is nearly as popular in parts of Ireland as it is in the States.
Doug (Glenn) is a would be country singer, scratching a living as an odd job man. When he discovers his wife Agnes (Kathy Keira Clarke) is having an affair, he moves in with his best mate Bill (Mackintosh), who runs the small engine repair business of the title with the unwilling help of his son Tony (Kinlan. Tony dreams of escaping to the outside world, while Doug too has a dream of getting the demo tape of his songs played on the local country radio station by their chief DJ (an effective cameo from David Hayman). However, he's too lacking in confidence to let anyone even hear the tape. Events take a turn when the aggressively macho Burley, another long term mate who is just out of jail for killing a child in a hit and run accident, returns to the community and sets in motion a chain of events, which causes Doug to finally learn to stand up for himself and believe in his own talent.
It is an unusual, engaging and well acted story about male friendships, their strong bands of loyalty and sometime fragility. Glenn, sporting a bushy"country boy" beard, is very likeable as the tentative, vulnerable Doug, still finding his feet at the age of fortysomething, while Mackintosh gives good support as the twitchy, weasly Bill, who combines with Burley to make themselves feel better about their sad little lives by undermining Doug's shaky belief in himself and his musical ability. Stuart Graham as the bullying Burley, who takes the group on a macho bonding camping and deer hunting trip (shades of Cimino's movie of that name!) and then turns nasty, is disturbingly unpleasant and Kathy Keira Clarke makes the most of the rather underwritten role of Doug's wife, who appears to be virtually the only woman in the village. If you like country music, there's plenty of it, including Glenn giving a creditable rendition of Doug's songs. The story telling is sometimes a little difficult to follow in that it takes more time than it should to get to grips with who these guys are and where they're coming from, and the aping of blue collar America by working class rural Ireland is somewhat unsettling, although very interesting in terms of giving us a different viewpoint on that nation. Hopwever, the film's central theme of the games that men play with each other in order to make themselves feel better about themselves strikes a universal chord.