Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Madness takes many forms and few are predictable, or comfortable. William Keane is as sane as a rabbit with a brain tumour. He shuffles about, sneaking from one vantage point to another, searching for a girl who may, or may not, have existed. His paranoia stalks the movie. Watching it, you never feel safe.

Writer/director Lodge Kerrigan's first film was the hardly noticed, completely wonderful Clean, Shaven. His second, Claire Dolan, with the exceptionally raw and much missed Katrin Cartlidge, was troubled and difficult to shake off. His third, Keane, is more introspective, darker and deeply disturbing. For a while, it looks like a back-of-the-head, hand held, first person walk through, as the camera follows Keane, searching for his seven-year-old daughter, who was abducted from the bus station six months earlier.

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The man is opaque. You know what he says - he talks to himself enough to get the drift of his crazy thoughts - returning to the scene of the crime, if indeed there was a crime, expecting to meet the kidnapper.

"He knows you are watching," he mumbles. "He knows who you are."

Panic is reflected in the almost empty depot. This makes no sense, and yet to Keane it is the epicetre of a shattered life. When asked, he says he is a house painter from New Jersey, looking for work. He has money, enough to score coke, get high, lose himself in mindless gratification.

In a cheap hotel, he meets Lynn (Amy Ryan) and helps her out with a few dollars to pay for her room. She has a daughter (Abigail Breslin), also seven years old, and, at once, there is a connection in the mind of the audience. Will Keane substitute the love for his lost daughter onto this girl? Lynn's husband has been away for months, working up north. She's not exactly abandoned, but she's nervous and lonely.

Kerrigan avoids every pitfall of a romantic panacea. Nothing quite fits. Just when you begin to feel relaxed around Keane, as he shows his softer side, something happens out of the clear blue nowhere to rock you back into a state of fear and desperation. The performances, as much as the writing, are critical, none more so than Damian Lewis in the lead role. The fact that he is English makes no difference. He plays a Jersey boy like the native he purports to be. The nationality doesn't matter; it's his presence, his rage, his dangerous mind that never lets you rest. As a performance, it comes close to matching Robert De Niro's in Taxi Driver, not that the material is so electrifying, but what they share is an intensity and a purpose.

Ryan has the ability to be desirable and unavailable at the same time. Lynn is a woman whose scars are on the surface and Ryan has a way of looking at Lewis with the kind of suspicion that cuts through wire. As for eight-year-old Breslin, she is nothing short of remarkable, dealing with complex adult emotions without trepidation, or falsehood.

This is a film that you respect, rather than enjoy. Beneath the grainy ambiguities lies a blackness that dares not see the light.

Reviewed on: 21 Sep 2006
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Paranoia stalks a bus depot in Jersey as the father of an abducted girl seeks retribution
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Director: Lodge Kerrigan

Writer: Lodge Kerrigan

Starring: Damian Lewis, Amy Ryan, Abigail Breslin, Tina Holmes, Christopher Evan Welch

Year: 2004

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


EIFF 2005

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