Patrick’s Day (2014)

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Terry McMahon let out a lot of anger with his impressive debut feature, Charlie Casanova, and this time around there’s still an angry tinge seeping through his movie, but there’s also a heartbreaking sadness to it all, thanks to McMahon’s script and direction, and some flawless performances from the main actors.

Moe Dunford plays Patrick, a young man suffering from schizophrenia. He lives in a home, works part-time in a supermarket, and enjoys regular visits from his mother (Kerry Fox). His birthday also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day, a day full of fun, silly headwear, parades, and funfair rides. On this particular St. Patrick’s Day, Patrick is separated from his mother and so gets to wander around for a while on his own. He heads back to the hotel that they’re staying at, while his mother tries to convince a police officer (Philip Jackson) that she needs to find her son ASAP. While waiting around, Patrick meets a woman named Karen (Catherine Walker). These two lost souls enjoy a wonderful night together, but then a cold dose of reality starts to set in the next morning. Patrick’s in love, his mother is angry, and Karen is, well, slightly confused by the whole situation.

Both cinematic in terms of individual moments and mood created, and yet uncinematic in just how real and affecting the whole thing is, McMahon has really created something special here. A film about mental illness that strips away all of the typical sweetness and polish, while also taking viewers on an emotional rollercoaster that yields momentary pleasures in amongst a number of great pains. A story told by Kerry Fox in the second half of the movie, about how she helped her son deal with the death of a beloved family pet is one of the most emotionally-conflicting cinema moments I’ve experienced in recent years.

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Starting with a camera shot that shows the main character through the bars of a cage (albeit a supermarket cage used to load and unload goods), McMahon is at great pains to ensure that viewers realise Patrick is caged all throughout the movie, be it by those thinking that they are acting in his best interests, anyone looking to take advantage of him, or the ever-present confines that his mental state creates. The script is very strong, very strong indeed, with McMahon showing a depth of knowledge that would suggest he knows a lot about the central subject matter. It’s good to see that he very early on decides to disabuse viewers of preconceptions – schizophrenia is not just a multiple personality disorder. It can be much more than that, much worse, and the jokes aren’t funny to people who have seen even the smallest glimpse of the reality of it.

If the script and direction are strong, the performances are almost flawless. Philip Jackson seems slightly out of place, as a police officer with a droll sense of humour, but Aaron Monaghan is very sweet as Patrick’s friend, Freddie, and Catherine Walker does well in the role of Karen. With no disrespect to them, however, the entire movie belongs to Dunford and Fox. The former gives a performance so good that it’s hard to believe that it’s just an acting performance. The latter may make you loathe her at times, may make you disgusted, but also makes you care about the permanent difficulties of looking after a loved one so afflicted. I would try to heap more praise on both stars, but there really aren’t enough long words in my vocabulary to do them justice.

There’s still room for improvement, I didn’t personally care for the strange development of the character played by Jackson, but Patrick’s Day deserves to be seen, raved about, and then seen by even more people. Even anyone STILL reeling from the primal scream of Charlie Casanova.

WRITER/DIRECTOR: TERRY MCMAHON
STARS: MOE DUNFORD, KERRY FOX, CATHERINE WALKER, PHILIP JACKSON, AARON MONAGHAN,
RUNTIME: 102 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: IRELAND

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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