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Mister John

Dir/scr: Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor. UK.  2013. 95mins

The second feature from Helen (2008) directors Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor is another solemn, studied account of a tragic event and the consequences for one individual. Aiden Gillen gives a subtle, finely nuanced performance as a man tempted by the possibility of re-inventing himself and stepping into the appealing life of his late brother.

Gillen is frequently shown in close-up and asked to wordlessly convey all the complex emotional shifts in a man suffering loss, confusion and a lingering sense of anger over his wife’s betrayal.

It is an intriguing premise but the languid, unvarying pace and detached manner adopt by Molloy and Lawlor work against an emotional engagement in the story which makes it more of a film to admire than one that could strike a chord with audiences. Artificial Eye have the UK rights and further festival exposure should follow its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

In many respects, Mister John is a 1950s Robert Mitchum B-movie re-imagined as a melancholy tale of existential crisis that might once have attracted Nicolas Roeg. Jetlagged and shellshocked, Gerry (Gillen) arrives in SIngapore following the death of his brother John. His decision not to phone home is just one of the indications of the relationship problems he has left behind.

He is warmly welcomed by John’s widow Kim (Zoe Tay) and as he starts to wear John’s clothes and involve himself in John’s business affairs it is obvious that he could quite easily stay and make his temporary flight a permanent move.

Gillen is frequently shown in close-up and asked to wordlessly convey all the complex emotional shifts in a man suffering loss, confusion and a lingering sense of anger over his wife’s betrayal. He rises impressively to the challenge and is especially touching when he finally breaks down.

Ole Birkeland’s crisp cinematography and the soaring, Nymanesque musical score of Stephen McKeown are key elements of an atmospheric, abstract production. 

Production companies: Desperate Optimists, Samson Films, Akanga Film Asia

Sales contact: Desperate Optimists www.desperateoptimists.com

Producers: David Collins, Fran Borgia, Joe Lawlor

Cinematography: Ole Birkeland

Editors: Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor

Production designer: Daniel Lim

Music: Stephen McKeon

Main cast: Aiden Gillen, Zoe Tay, Michael Thomas, Claire Keelan

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