Dir. Peter Foott. Ireland, 2016, 84 minutes

Young Offenders

Already a sizable hit in its native Ireland (800,000 and counting), and Best Irish Feature joint winner at the Galway Film Fleadh in July, teen-buddy comedy of idiocy The Young Offenders now looks set to charm niche international audiences following its UK premiere at the London Film Festival. Inspired by Irelands biggest cocaine seizure of 440m off the coast of western Cork in 2007, this winning fictional tale sees two working class 15 year-olds from Cork setting off on stolen bicycles in the hopes of finding a missing bale, valued at 7m. Amiable comic misadventures ensue, building to a dramatic reckoning back in their home city.

The Young Offendersis well-served by its two young lead actors, here delivering impressive screen debuts.

The film is narrated by sweet-natured Conor MacSweeney (Alex Murphy), a short-of-stature teenager who looks up literally and figuratively to his more adventurous schoolfriend Jock (Chris Walley). With home lives that mirror each other Conor is absent a father, Jock a mother, and neither have siblings the pair have become enthusiastic partners in crime, with similarly styled cropped haircuts, shaved eyebrow slits, chunky silver chains, earrings, sportswear, hoodies and gold signet rings.

A key difference is that Conor has a mother (Hilary Rose) who is trying her best, tolerating his abysmal work ethic at her city market fish stall, while Jock has an alcoholic, abusive father (Michael Sands) who snatches away any cash that might come the lads way.

The Young Offenders begins with the dopey duo fantasising about how they would spend a large cash windfall conveniently setting the scene for when just such an opportunity presents itself. In fact, writer-director Footts feature debut screenplay wastes no expository moment, and you can be sure that any morsel of information offered up from Conors preference for chicken-based meals to Jocks lamentable underwear impoverishment will deliver some kind of narrative dividend down the line.

A rather generic nemesis comes courtesy of a jobsworth local cop (Dominic MacHale), who has presciently placed a tracking device on one of the bikes stolen by Jock, and so is able to follow the pair most of the 100-mile journey to Three Castle Head. By the time the tale violently climaxes in Mrs MacSweeneys kitchen, you can be sure that the excessively diligent Sergeant Healy is the least of the boys problems.

The Young Offenders is well-served by its two young lead actors, here delivering impressive screen debuts. The boyish Murphy is a particular asset as the audiences point of identification, nicely trading off his characters relative moral scruples, but its ultimately the lads friendship and loyalty that carries the good-natured film along, especially in the road-trip middle section. Another key component is the mother-son relationship, which finally earns its emotional payoff thanks to a resolute unsentimentality (Mam cooks like she hates food”).

Technical aspects are hardly lavish, although Paddy Jordans crisp lensing makes rural Cork look amply appealing. A promiscuous score, turning on a sixpence from composer Ray Harmans string orchestrations to West Coast rapper Xzibit to quirky Irish indie pop Sultans Of Ping FC (1992 hit Wheres Me Jumper?), works overtime to rather diminishing returns. Thick Cork accents may require subtitling for English-speaking markets in North America and further afield.

Production company: Vico Films

International sales: Carnaby, lorianne@carnabyinternational.com

Producers: Peter Foott, Julie Ryan

Screenplay: Peter Foott

Cinematography: Paddy Jordan

Editor: Colin Campbell

Music: Ray Harmen

Main cast: Alex Murphy, Chris Walley, Hilary Rose, Dominic MacHale, PJ Gallagher, Shane Casey, Pascal Scott, Michael Sands, Ciaran Bermingham