Belfast Telegraph Another Middletown Review (Nov 2006)

No better than fair to Middling
Middletown tries hard but, as Noel McAdam finds out, is as downbeat and dreary as the grey steeples of Ulster

03 November 2006

Middletown two star

(15, 90 mins) Matthew Macfadyen, Gerard McSorley, Mick Lally, David Wilmot, Frankie McCafferty, Bronagh Gallagher, Marie Jones

They should be hopping mad in Middletown. Because, according to this movie, they ARE hopping mad in Middletown.

Now this Middletown may bear no resemblance to the real blink-and-miss-it little village near Tynan in County Armagh.

Movie Middletown is no middle of the road town and this production, I'm afraid, is only fair to middling.

But it tries hard: nicely constructed, beautifully framed and lit and painstaking in detail with sustained high production values.

And there are also some well-judged performances, particularly from perpetually sorrowing father Gerard McSorley, Mick Lally and the always-reliable Bronagh Gallagher. And like life itself, brethren, it is mercifully short.

But this is as downbeat and dreary as the grey steeples of Ulster which Winston Churchill famously once complained of.

Parish Priest Gabriel (Macfadyen) is coming back to his home town to fulfil a childhood promise to rid it of sin, quickly telling his ageing predecessor of the legacy of failure he has left behind him.

But this Gabriel is no Angel and is soon primarily focused on his own family, interfering with his brother Jim's (Daniel Mays) and his wife's (Eva Birthistle) marriage.

In a clear nod to Robert Mitchum and the classic Charles Laughton film Night of the Hunter, Gabriel's surname is actually Hunter. But hardly even the ghost of magnificent Mitchum is evoked.

There is no middle ground here, no subtlety or complexity, no shades of grey, just a relentless attack on the Catholic Church.

There is no glimpse of redemption in Gabriel, who quickly moves through Prodigal Son to Avenging mode, preaching the Word, showing none of the Love. We are not even allowed to perceive him as a tortured soul.

Writer Daragh Carville may have flair - there's no doubt several scenes are well written. But while it seems to think of itself as middlebrow, for the most part this is codology rather than theology.

Just because you decide to go for heavy doesn't mean you leave out humorous, but Middletown has a laughter bypass.

Director Brian Kirk's movie has a dark, brooding sensibility just this side of bleak but it all makes for one dull trip to the cinema.



Now showing at cinemas across Northern Ireland