Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

What does it take to make life worth living? Josie's life is very simple. He looks after a petrol station. He has a couple of squalid rooms in the back and his wages pay for his food and for a few cans of beer at the end of the day. He watches television and sometimes he goes to the pub. The men in the pub bully him - he seems to be mentally disabled - but he laughs it off, preferring to look on the bright side of life. He enjoys walking in the surrounding countryside, which is presented here with the aid of some truly breathtaking cinematography. Whilst the pace of the film is very slow, its intermittently beautiful visuals will draw you in.

Josie has gone on like this for a long time - all of his adult life. He doesn't really expect anything else. He knows everybody and always enjoys a chat, not letting it bother him that they're always keen to leave. Much like the garage, he's a point at which people stop only when they need something, swiftly moving on. Even the horse he befriends will make physical contact with him only when bribed with apples. But all this changes when his boss introduces a teenager, David, who is going to get some work experience by helping him out at the weekends. David is a bored young goth with low expectations of the town he lives in and at first he's embarrassed by his assignment, but he soon warms to Josie's honesty and genuine friendliness. His companionship provides Josie with his first real experience of hope. The trouble is that hope can sometimes be too much to bear.

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Garage is one of the most depressing films I have seen in a long time, a scathing indictment of the way we treat the mentally subnormal, but it's enlivened by its own brand of dark humour. Anyone who has experienced social isolation will be able to identify with Josie; ironically, David's intelligence seems to put him in a similar position, frustrated with his contacts in the small community (there are shades of Daniel Keyes' classic Flowers For Algernon here). As the other locals belittle Josie we get a glimpse into the squalor of their own lives, regarding which they have rather less excuse. Josie's final act is a challenge to all of them - a bold attempt to control his own destiny.

Smart and brilliantly scripted with a solid central performance, Garage is nevertheless a difficult film to watch. It drags in places and, though viewers will sympathise with Josie, they might also share the locals' desire to avoid staying long in his company. It's hard to imagine this film attracting much of an audience, yet it's an important piece of work, recording aspects of human experience which are generally ignored. If you do go to see it, it'll linger in your mind for a long time thereafter.

Reviewed on: 03 Mar 2008
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The life of a lonely petrol station attendant is changed forever when he is befriended by a bored teenager.
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Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Writer: Mark O'Halloran

Starring: Pat Shortt, Conor Ryan, Anne-Marie Duff, John Keogh

Year: 2007

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Ireland

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