Home Is Where The Heart Is: Byrne Takes Up Fiction
For the decade prior to making his fictional feature debut, director Darragh Byrne helmed a number of Irish television documentaries that held implications of those who found themselves in various unfortunate situations, whether outlaws by chance (or choice, in The Underworld) or afflicted immigrant by law (as was partially the case in Mixed Blessings). Making the leap from non-fiction to fabrication with the socially conscious dramedy, Parked, Bryne continues to follow similar themes without rehashing worn material or sentimentally moralizing. Instead, the director takes a pair of downtrodden contradictory characters he could have plucked from one of his previous docs and rubs them together in classic odd couple tradition like a comedic experiment to see what kind of charge will result from the friction.
Long an Irish emigrant working odd jobs in Britain, Fred (played by a lovingly precarious Colm Meaney), an over the hill traditionalist with a knack for fixing clocks, has returned to his homeland with little but bitter disappointment and a beaten up car. He has spent the last few months bunking down in his hatchback parked seaside, hoping each week to be approved for federal aid with no luck. Like a beach bound hermit, Fred has withdrawn from the world, no longer able to communicate without periods of awkward silence amidst every sentence, but when a youthful addict named Cathal (Colin Morgan) parks his car in the same lot, Fred begins to let his guard down, sharing tips about living homeless.
Cathal operates with reckless abandon, as any kid with nothing to lose might. Unafraid to take advantage of the system, he introduces Fred to the local community fitness center where he can not only use the shower facilities, but make use of the olympic sized swimming pool (where he attempts to dive off the board multiple times before losing his nerve and climbing down). The first of many inadvertent meetings, Fred accidentally collides with a woman named Jules (Milka Ahlroth), a successful retired musician he comes to find has a heart akin to his – kind but broken. Despite Fred’s awkwardness, the two seem attracted to one another from the start. As Cathal altruistically leads Fred to affirm his feelings for Jules (all the while secretly descending into the depths of addiction), Fred finds himself too ashamed to admit his meager living situation. With help from his local food service provider, Fred decides to unveil himself in a publicity story that will expose the unjust declination of federal financial assistance to truly needy individuals, but regardless of his plans, all does not end well.
What begins as an antipodal buddy film about financial struggle and the social assumption of poverty develops into a touching, tragic romance about life changing relationships and self discovery. First time screenwriter Ciaran Creagh also effectively prods into the bipolar effect of drug use through Morgan’s cagey Jeckyll and Hyde performance from selfless friend to sordid beggar. Draped in D.P. John Conroy’s overbearing blue tint, the sprawling mix of themes is blended into an honest, well acted, comedic commentary that are not bound to the borders of Ireland. Parked is full of well worn clichés and universal truths made anew, a film leaving Byrne and Creagh (who is currently in post with his own helming debut short, The Note) a pair of fresh names to keep a watch on.