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Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own

It-is-in-us-all-movie-review-cosmo-jarvis
SXSW

MOVIE REVIEW
It Is in Us All (2022)

Hamish (Cosmo Jarvis) is in Donegal on the west coast of Ireland for reasons unclear to himself. An aunt he never knew, the sister of his late mother, recently died; and she left him her house. He did not attend her funeral, so this trip to see the house is a mysterious compulsion, one that no one in his life, not himself and certainly not his jackass of a father, Jack (Claes Bang, who’s having a moment), quite understands. En route Hamish is involved in a nasty night-time car accident in which a teenager in the other car is killed. After being interviewed by the gardai and leaving the hospital he goes to the teenager’s sparsely attended funeral, where he is noticed by grieving mother Cara (writer-director Antonia Campbell-Hughes) and peculiar best friend Evan (Rhys Mannion), who survived the accident. And then things get really weird.

Ms. Campbell-Hughes’s movie, shown as part of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, is weird indeed. Hamish is a closed-down creature, a businessman who lives to work and doesn’t seem to understand what’s going on inside his head. Jack is in contact over videocall from Hong Kong; and there are phone chats with friends, but they make things worse. Donegal is the most rural part of Ireland and a small town there, where the priest and the shopkeepers know who Hamish is without having to ask, is not a great place to be having some kind of breakdown. The aunt’s house is isolated and cold, furnished like a house in a movie instead of a cluttered homestead full of life, but it gives up a major secret that Hamish must consider. As he does that the audience must consider him and the strangeness of his choices: Rather than seek treatment for a vicious cut on his arm, Hamish superglues it shut and then improvises a cast with duct tape – something believable on a battlefield, or for an American without health insurance, but a really surprising decision by a well-off European used to free healthcare. Cara pops up from time to time to berate Hamish with her sorrow. But mostly we must consider the strange dance that Hamish and Evan begin doing, which should be against Hamish’s better judgment. Evan repeatedly stops by the house, wearing a red duffel coat like this is “Don’t Look Now”; it would be stalking if Hamish didn’t welcome these visits. They go on drives (Evan drives) and discuss the accident. Evan shows Hamish around the farm where he lives with an elderly grandfather. A prize bull is visited, as is the abattoir. There’s a bonfire on the beach with some of Evan’s mates and dancing in a nightmarish rural club.

All the heavy foreshadowing and fearsome metaphors should add up to something, ideally something incredible, but unfortunately they don’t. We’re supposed to be wondering what Evan wants, but instead we wonder why Hamish is humoring this juvenile. The lure between them tumbles between being weirdly sexual, weirdly friendly, weirdly immature and weirdly philosophical; and rather than achieving the feverish intensity the movie was hoping for it’s just, well, weird. Perhaps Ms. Campbell-Hughes lived with the story for so long that she lost sight of its lacuna, or presumed audiences would forgive Hamish’s odd choices when the final plot twists come around. Poor Mr. Jarvis, who is no doubt heartily sick of his resemblance to Tom Hardy being pointed out, has to play a man who doesn’t express his feelings even in his thoughts, whose entire life is being upended and who doesn’t know what to do. Depressive blankness, while realistic, is hell on an actor, and unfortunately Mr. Jarvis plays the symptoms and not the cause. It doesn’t help that Mr. Mannion gives his sulky, asocial teenager no hidden depths, when Evan needed to draw people to him in spite of themselves instead of creeping everyone out. For emotional impact, nothing in the movie touches cinematographer Piers McGrail’s early shot of a car, headlights blazing, tumbling down a wooded hillside, the lights flickering behind the trees as it sickeningly rolls over and over. It’s such a shame – there’s an excellent movie in here fighting to get out, if only the actors and director all had a little more experience under their belts. They are all clearly capable of better things, but this unfortunately isn’t it.

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