What Richard Did
What Richard Did
Dir: Lenny Abrahamson
Cert:15 • Ireland: 87 min • Element Pictures • October 5, 2012
Lenny Abrahamson’s latest film has caused quite a stir in Ireland, not only because it is loosely based on a novel, Bad Day In Blackrock, which fictionalised the controversial real life murder of Brian Murphy by a group of upper-class teenagers outside a Dublin nightclub. It is also one of the most compelling films Ireland has offered in recent years. Abrahamson stressed during the promotion of the film that it does not draw any direct relation to the savage attack or the subsequent novel, yet it is hard to watch the film without acknowledging, or relating to, the incident which shocked the Irish public in the early noughties.
Richard is young, fun and under twenty-one. Coming from a loving upper-class family, attending a prestigious private school with a strong network of friends and sights set on playing professional rugby, it appears that he has everything going for him. The first half of the film builds up both the romance between the cocksure Richard and his new girlfriend, and the tension between himself and a fellow teammate who had a history with the girl. Things come to a head between the two men at a drink-fuelled house party, and the consequences force Richard to face a complex moral dilemma.
What Richard Did explores the trappings of raw human emotion. It examines how we as people, no matter how civilised and rational we are, can find ourselves in situations in which we act out in ways we wouldn’t typically behave. Through the character of Richard, the film explains how people will do anything in life, including reject moral codes and societal norms, to protect the ones we love and what we love in life. In the heat of the moment, these passions can outweigh the cold reality of their consequences.
Abrahamson manages to ground the story with a tone which balances restraint and deep emotion. It presents an unbiased account of the men’s altercation and its aftermath. He enables the audience to see all sides of the story and feel everything which the character’s feel; anger, guilt, rage, fear, anxiety, despair. However, this does not colour our perceptions of the characters; rather it relays the film’s questions onto the audience. It forces us to question who was right and wrong in the situation? How would we act in Richard’s situation? How would we cope and resolve it? What makes the film so gripping and engaging is that we must answer the same questions of ourselves that Richard’s predicament raises for him.
The entire cast do an excellent job of portraying the Irish youths. In many scenes throughout their body language speaks louder than the sparse dialogue, giving the film a strong realistic feel. Several scenes contain washed out greys and blue hues, with long periods of silence, which translates the loneliness and the excruciating weight of Richard’s circumstances. It effectively captures his shift from being the self-assured extrovert to the broken man turning in on himself.
What Richard Did is one of 2012’s must-see films and showcases the strong talent Ireland has to offer in terms of film-making. Whether or not Lenny Abrahamson derived Richard from real life events or fiction, this film reminds us of the unpredictability of life and how quickly our certainties in life can be taken away from us. You may come away from this film with questions about yourself, your beliefs and how they can be threatened by life’s pressures.