08/10/2019 Homegrown Cinema – LFF Day 6
After what felt like a marathon weekend of films at the BFI London Film Festival – to be fair, I loved every minute of it – last night saw the pace relaxed, with only one film on the agenda: Irish crime drama Calm with Horses. After catching the memorable Rose Plays Julie at the beginning of my LFF experience, Calm with Horses is another arresting feature from the homeland. All the more impressive, it’s also director Nick Rowland’s debut film, having cut his teeth to great success – including a BAFTA nomination – helming short films. Backed by Film4 and Altitude (distributing in the UK), as if that wasn’t already an indicator of the film’s quality, Michael Fassbender serves as an executive producer and the project attracted Cosmo Jarvis (who exploded onto the scene in 2017’s Lady Macbeth) and Barry Keoghan (whose star is on the meteoric rise) in the central roles.
Set in an isolated and rundown Irish town, aptly reflecting the economic ravaging of many parts of Ireland in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the film follows Cosmo Jarvis’ character Arm, as he navigates his loyalties to the crime family who use him as muscle when business needs taken care of, and his relationship with his estranged girlfriend and son who are desperate to escape their stagnant community for a better life in the city. Headily atmospheric – owing in part to a dreamy score from Blanck Mass – and remarkably taut, Calm with Horses crackles with tension and simmering ferocity. Cosmo Jarvis further cements himself as a talent to watch, simultaneously hulking and sympathetic, in a leading performance that deserves serious plaudits. Every aspect of the film acts in captivating synchronicity and the result is one of the most striking Irish cinema entries in years. Absolutely aces.
Tonight I’ve got another film featuring Cosmo Jarvis in the lead to look forward to, Nocturnal, and the British dramedy Eternal Beauty, starring Sally Hawkins and David Thewlis. More on those tomorrow…