Morningstar Middletown Review (Mar 2007)

A huge thank you to Eloisa of the Italian forum for sharing this Middletown review from Morningstar Online.


Middletown (15)


(Thursday 01 March 2007)
Directed by Brian Kirk

GIVEN the current climate of fear evoked by religious politicians, Middletown provides a timely parable about the dangers of pompous people promoting their prejudices at any cost.

The trouble is that these points are hammered home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, with everything reduced to contrasting two sides of the coin at the expense of the middle.

Directed by Brian Kirk from a script by Daragh Carville, it's set among the Presbyterian community in Northern Ireland and is clearly an echo of the politics of Ian Paisley.

Matthew Macfadyen plays Gabriel, a missionary who returns home to take up the reins of the parish, only to discover, to his horror, that the whole village resembles Sodom and Gomorrah.

Well, that's his assessment, since the church is crumbling and the locals seem to be more interested in downing a pint in the local and betting on bloody cock fights.

His brother Jim (Daniel Mays) is married to the barmaid Caroline (Eva Birthistle) and expecting a baby. Naturally, Gabriel wants the baby baptised because, "it may be in your belly, but it belongs to God."

While her husband has a habit of obeying the brother because his Da (Gerard McSorley) wouldn't have it any other way, that's not for the feisty wife and she soon gives him a short shrift.

Meanwhile, they are living in a caravan while their house is being built, with Jim trying to make ends meet by some illegalities, only for him to undo all his good work because of his gambling.

With Kirk's insistence on composing strong visual contrasts, Adam Suschitzky manages to convey the sparse interiors and rain-soaked landscape with some magnificent cinematography.

Sadly, the characters are never fully filled out, with Gabriel's descent into madness producing a melodramatic conclusion reminiscent of a soap opera.

What else can you do when the man never converses with anybody, simply ranting away and failing to recognise humanity's complex contradictions.

Still, it wears its heart on its sleeve. Bigots beware.