As a debut writer and director, the fear is always that no one will see the project that you’ve slaved over bringing to life.
Newcomer Fridtjof Ryder certainly helped his cause by securing the appearance of one of the country’s finest actors in Mark Rylance for his debut effort.
After spending some time in a psychiatric unit, a young man (Rory Alexander) is released, and makes his way back to his home town.
It’s there that he reunites with Dunleavy (Rylance), or ‘D’ as he is known, as the young man tries to return to some kind of normality. It’s not long however, before he starts seeing things, and that perhaps leaving the unit at this time was somewhat premature.
Kudos for Ryder for securing someone of Rylance’s calibre in his first film; if nothing else it will garner attention for that feat alone. But what of the film itself.
Although described as a modern fairy tale, Ryder’s film struggles to live up to that tag. In places it has a dreamlike quality, wallowing as it does in an almost meditative state throughout, with very little sustained dialogue, with a light, ethereal touch in places.
It’s the kind of film that makes you join up a few of the dots as to what has taken place; Although Rylance’s character is a father figure throughout the film, it’s never confirmed that that is the case. It’s also understood that the disappearance of the young man’s mother is the catalyst for his current fragile state, without fully going into the how’s and why’s of her disappearance.
To that end, it’s more a film about mental health than it is any kind of fairytale; the young man, who was with his mother when she disappeared, has carried that anguish for many years, and it has taken its toll on him.
The dialogue throughout, what there is of it, doesn’t really work, except where Rylance’s character is concerned; in fact it’s only his character that is truly fleshed out, giving him any sense of identity.
As far as Alexander is concerned, in his first lead role, he does well considering the limited range of the character, who ultimately crosses that line from being curiously interesting to coming across as rather two dimensional and dull.
And certainly if you take out Rylance from the equation, what’s left is a project that may well have had grand ambitions for a debut, but sadly never realises them, with what is essentially an empty shell of a film.