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What Richard Did

January 17, 2016

What Richard Did (2012)
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Actors: Jack Reynor, Lars Mikkelsen, Roisin Murphy

6a00e54ee7b642883301901bf5f37d970b-200pi (200×103)

Synopsis: Richard (Jack Reynor) is the nominal alpha male in a large group of middle-class Dublin teenagers. One summer, Richard becomes fixated by winning the affection of Lara (Roisin Murphy) – the girlfriend of another guy on the fringes of his crowd – but the ripple of discord that lingers from the enmity between the two boys, and a sudden, violent act that Richard commits, sends huge shockwaves across the community.

Review: Back for my second helping of Lenny Abrahamson fare this weekend, and I’m equally as impressed with What Richard Did as I was with his smackhead tragicomedy, Adam and Paul. What I like about Abrahamson is that he’s a really great dramatist who (for the most part) manages to realise his stories so evocatively and cinematically. He’s an absolute master at conjuring a sense of atmosphere and tension, and by using the special properties of sound and scenery so purposefully. Watching this film, I was actually reminded of a similarity to some of the better works from French filmmaker, François Ozon, and how both directors are so sure-footed in making mysterious, yet such psychologically acute, cine-dramas.

Being hyper-critical, Abrahamson is tangibly battling with his material in the more interior second half of the film, as he has to characterise (read ‘demonstrate’) the fallout from the tragic act committed by lead character, Richard. There are lots of angsty close-ups, jump cuts and overlapping sequences of dialogue that strike me as Abrahamson trying to overwork the material a tad. This section of the film also has a touch of the ‘Nordic Noir’ about it too. Maybe I’ve been sucked in by the casting and presence of venerable Dane, Lars Mikkelsen, but Abrahamson selects a sour, blue-tinted sheen to his cinematography which mirrors much of the palette of recent Scandinavian TV output. And the scene where Richard confesses to his austere father is a touch portentous and has more than a whiff of the worthy ‘Actors Workshop’ about it.

That aside, where Abrahamson is beyond reproach, and in fact quite masterly, is in What Richard Did‘s forensic dissection of its middle-class milieu: from the subtle framing of the alpha-teen, blue-blooded rugby cult, to the icy legacy of status that Richard’s family and their various homes emit, to the brilliant portrayal of Richard himself – a precociously confident teenager, with an almost sociopathic bent that manifests itself in a narcissism that’s gratified by sexual conquests, to a chronic machismo which sadly, under the distorting effect of alcohol, slips out just once, but crucially so, when his one-time love rival is lying reeling on the floor….(January 2015)

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