Not only is this Irish drama sharply well written and directed, but it also features a jaw-dropping breakout performance by young Irish actor Jack Reynor. He's already been snapped up by Hollywood (Michael Bay has cast him in Transformers 4), but it's well worth having a look at his sensitive work in this haunting film.
Reynor is the eponymous Richard, an 18-year-old golden boy who charms everyone he meets. He's the natural leader of his local rugby team, attends university in his spare time and has a loyal gang of pals around him. Then one night he attends a house party with his new girlfriend (Murphy) and his closest pals (Drea and Walton), and a drunken confrontation turns ugly. What happens next is so sudden that it takes a couple of days for the ramifications to emerge, and Richard's life starts falling apart around him. He turns to his father (Mikkelsen) for help, but realises it's up to him to do the right thing. If he can.
The film is loosely based on a real event, and Campbell's script never over-writes the story, letting the situation develop in earthy, honest ways that focus on character interaction and introspection rather than big melodramatic clashes. And Abrahamson's astute direction makes it impossible to watch this film passively: we are thrown right into the situation along with Richard, forced to grapple with moral issues that seem very simple on the surface but ripple out in unexpected ways as the situation brings out aspects of his personality that he has always suppressed in order to live up to expectations.
Holding it all together is Reynor's astute, never-flashy performance. His portrayal of Richard's sensitivity and steely determination to answer to his conscience helps us us feel the devastation in remarkably internalised ways. And his interaction with both Murphy and Mikkelsen is perfectly gauged, bringing out the story's resonant themes in ways that continually surprise us. Meanwhile, the sensual, insinuating filmmaking always respects the intelligence of both the audience and the characters. So in the end, the message haunts us in all the right ways.