Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Writers: Malcolm Campbell (screenplay), Kevin Power (novel)
Stars: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley
Motion Picture Rating: 15
Runtime: 88 minutes
I have a 17 year old nephew who is considerate, sensible and sociable, but I worry about him. His access to almost any type of adult accoutrement is vast. He is wired into the Internet 24/7 and is seemingly bombarded with images of sex, drugs and the rock n roll lifestyle ad nauseam (if not the real things). It is incredibly different to how I entered adulthood circa 25 years ago. He is sensible enough to navigate it all, but I still worry that he will be caught out.
There are many commentators that express concerns about the over-sexualized and celebrity entranced consumer kids of today. This film review will not add much to the debate, but its subject is highly relevant. What Richard Did has been described as a ‘wake-up call for Ireland’ and as a ‘defining moment for Irish youth culture’. As such other film critics have viewed the character of 18 year old Richard, his lifestyle, ambitions, close friends and errant behaviour as symptomatic of serious social change. Those critics seemingly worry about Ireland in ways that I worry about my nephew here in England.
Richard Karlsen is 18 and this film follows him through that summer that sits intoxicatingly between finishing school and heading to university. Richard (played by Jack Reynor) is the alpha teenager of his group. He plays rugby at a high level, is a good looking lad and has plenty of friends and a fair amount of respect from them and their parents. That group is well enough off and flits between Dublin and holiday homes on the Wicklow coast. They drink and party, camp out and fool around with each other and keep away from adults. It’s that summer.
The film hinges on an unsavoury incident at an out-of-control house party in Dublin. Richard is drunk and lashes out at a lad paying too close attention to his girlfriend Lara (Roisin Murphy). Jealousy, pride and anger hinted at before pour out of him. In the blink of an eye everything changes, for the worse. The second half of the film deals with the aftermath and as such is about shame, grief, and the bonds of friendship.
This is a powerful and moving film. It is incredibly well made with excellent photography, smart editing and a wonderful score. The director Lenny Abrahamson is clearly very talented. At its centre is a rather mind-blowing performance by Reynor as Richard. He is exceptional and has to become a major star. His acting, like the film, is very natural. Richard is calm, slightly brooding, and unsettlingly confident. He, like many 18 year old boys, is difficult to fathom and Reynor nails the performance. What Richard Did may or may not define a generation, but it feels topical and it certainly carries quite an impact.