The Messenger

**

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Messenger
"Sheehan is convincing as the troubled man who has come to resent everyone around him, but in the process he makes his character so thoroughly obnoxious that it's hard to care what happens to him."

What would have happened to young Cole from The Sixth Sense if he hadn't had the support of Bruce Willis' uniquely placed counsellor? Jack (Robert Sheehan) is a twentysomething man who has seen dead people all his life. Are they real, or is he mentally ill and basing his apparent insights on obsessive reading of newspaper stories about unexpected deaths? Naturally, most people have concluded the latter, and he's spent a significant portion of his life in an institution. He could take the traditional route of helping the ghosts sole their problems in order to make them go away, but there are always more, and he just wants it all to stop.

In looking at how a situation like this might play out in the real world, screenwriter Andrew Kirk has hi upon an interesting idea, but unfortunately it loses something in the execution. Sheehan is convincing as the troubled man who has come to resent everyone around him, but in the process he makes his character so thoroughly obnoxious that it's hard to care what happens to him, and the film has nothing with which to win the viewer back. Attempts at leavening humour are just not as funny as someone seems to have thought. Similarly, the troubled resolution to its central mystery, whilst it is delivered with an effective emotional punch, leaves the viewer not only miserable but narratively stranded, as the most interesting character arcs are simply cut off at this point.

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Mixed in with this is a sub-plot about Jack's nephew, who is experiencing similar visions; it ought to be poignant because, of course, illness with symptoms like these run in families, but a single strong scene isn't followed up; instead we focus on the formulaic conflict between Jack and his brother in law. The flashbacks to Jack's childhood might be interestingly contrasted with the similar approach taken in The Girl Who Played With Fire and Rhys Connah is good as the younger version of our protagonist, yet still the whole falls short.

Director David Blair has done a lot of previous work in television and the overall atmosphere of this film is that of a downbeat BBC drama, something that might work much better in 30 minute chunks than it does over the course of an hour and a half. It takes too long to get going and never really picks up the pace it needs. With a story that clings so tightly to realism (for all its supernatural implications), it might have benefited from a little more stylistic imagination. That said, it's a fair rejoinder to some of the more whimsical takes on the theme of the natural medium.

Reviewed on: 20 Sep 2015
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A man is haunted by the spirits of the dead who want him to help them settled unfinished business.
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Luke Shaw *

Festivals:

EIFF 2015

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