Colm Meaney, Colin Morgan
The film is genial enough company, thanks to some likeable performances
Freshly returned to Ireland from the UK, down on his luck Fred (Meaney) finds himself living out of his car in a windswept car park in Dublin. With this help of his mild mannered junkie neighbour Cathal (Morgan), Fred gains some new perspective on life and even dares to hope for a relationship with a local woman (Milka Ahlroth).
Parked is the debut feature film from director Darragh Byrne, who previously worked on TV documentaries. Alongside first time scriptwriter Ciaran Creagh, the finished product certainly smacks of inexperience from time to time but emerges as a competent enough drama.
Fred is a simple man; self-educated and with meagre needs, he’s bewildered by the lack of concern from the state on his return. As a man who always paid his dues, he literally has no alternative but to take shelter in his car while his case is assessed. Thrown out of his home and falling into debt with some seriously dodgy people, Cathal is just as trapped and the two form an unlikely friendship.
Fred’s fears drive much of the drama of the film, and Cathal is the catalyst which helps him to conquer them – like the diving board at the pool or approaching a woman. The fact that Fred is free to do what he wants has seemingly never occurred to him and there’s a moment of epiphany during some dangerous driving which is one of the highlights of the film.
The romance proceeds in fits and starts, mainly through an unlikely number of chance encounters but the tension between giving into a new relationship so late in life and the shame of revealing where he lives makes this the most dramatic part of Fred’s story. These scenes are contrasted with Cathal’s increasing precarious dealings with the criminal underworld which all culminates in a clunky and overly simplistic finale.
Parked, like far too many Irish films – including last year’s Zonad – often feels like a short unnaturally stretched to feature length. The significant set pieces are few and far between and the characters lack the depth necessary to keep the audience engaged for an hour and a half. The finale, too, feels more suited to the short form – fitting the well worn characteristics of a slight twist, an obvious life lesson and some token ambiguity.
But the film is genial enough company, thanks to some likeable performances. Meaney doesn’t often get the chance to play the leading man but he’s on decent form here, if a little subdued. Morgan, who many may recognise from the Merlin BBC TV series, seems to be trying hard to channel Cillian Murphy and it works well, despite falling into some easy clichés of drug addicted characters. Some familiar faces pepper the rest of the cast (David Wilmot, Michael McElhatton) while only Finnish player Milka Ahlroth seems out of place, with no sense of why she is attracted to this odd middle aged man.
Parked may not break the mould for Irish-made dramas but it has a few laughs, some well meaning drama and may just be a truer snapshot of the lives of real Irish people than we’re used to seeing in cinema.