By Rich Cline
Like an Irish Somers Town, this runaway odyssey centres on two pre-teens who have a series of adventures. It's both sweet and tough, with vivid characters and an unnerving sense of danger.
Dylan (Curry) is trying to hide from his violent dad (Roe), who turns even more brutal when Dylan stand up to him to protect his mum (Conroy). Dylan's next-door friend Kylie (O'Neill) helps him escape, and she's trying to get away from her family as well. Together they hitch a ride from a barge-driver (Bendito) down the canal into Dublin. But the streets are a bit meaner than they expected, and for everyone who helps them there's someone else who may want to do them harm.
While this is essentially a short film extended with several montage sequences, Daly directs with a sure hand, using gritty cinematography and an edgy tone to keep things moving. The black and white opening sequences in their homes are shockingly horrific, and as colour starts to filter onto the screen we feel relief that they've left the violence behind. Although the night streets are definitely not safe either. And for every light-hearted encounter or moment of liberated playfulness there's a scene of raw fear.
O'Neill and Curry are bracingly natural in the roles, with their open faces and foul-mouthed but good-natured dialog. We can see the hopefulness in their eyes as they search the streets for Dylan's runaway brother. And their interaction with the people along the way bristles with humour and honesty. It all gets a little heavy-handed when a busker (Jimanez) tells Dylan about his namesake Bob, which later leads to a surreal encounter with an impersonator (Rea). But at least this gives the filmmaker an excuse to include some terrific music.
There are lots of other people who cross their paths over this Christmas night, but Daly keeps the focus extremely tight on the kids. Alongside their spark of independence, it's clear that they are children after all; they know they'll have to go home eventually, if only to get a decent meal. And for everything that happens to them, there's never a moment of sentimentality or moralising.
Which is perhaps the most remarkable thing of all.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 21st November 2008
Distributed by: Oscilloscope Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 44 Rotten: 8
Cast & Crew
Producer: Lance Daly, Macdara Kelleher
Starring: Kelly O'Neil as Kylie, Paul Roe as Dylan's Da