Review - What Richard Did


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The director of Adam and Paul and Garage crafts his most impressive film yet
What Richard Did (2012)
Lenny Abrahamson
Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy
Release Date:
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An 18 year old rugby star with a full life of potential ahead of him finds his future in crisis after a terrible accident. But what will Richard do about it?

Irish filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson has already gained some international attention for his previous features, Adam & Paul and Garage. Heavy on character and often light on plot, they’ve earned him some cult credibility. His latest, What Richard Did, is his most conventional film yet and likely to see his notoriety rise still further.

Somewhat based on the 2008 novel Bad Day in Blackrock by Kevin Power, What Richard Did is entrenched in the privileged society of South Dublin and gives us an insight into a much more vital world than Abrahamson’s previous films. These kids and teenagers are full of life and vigour, with none of the problems of isolation or marginalisation of Adam & Paul or Garage.

Main character Richard (Jack Reynor) shares the silver spoon upbringing of his peers but couples it with a sense not only of determination but absolute certainty that he will succeed in every life endeavour. It has been instilled by a years of parental grooming, by the adulation of those who surround him and plenty of empirical evidence – what Richard wants he gets, even when it comes to stealing the girlfriend of a team mate.

But Richard’s poise and power are dealt with delicately – as the captain of the rugby team he works hard to keep his squad in line, working hard to project an image of responsibility to everyone around, particularly adults. And it’s not a ruse, he’s a good guy, a man apart, destined for great things not just because of the privileged nature of his upbringing and Abrahamson and Reynor do a great job making the character likeable.

What Richard Did takes quite a while to get to the incident at the centre of the narrative, building up introspective moments and enough foreshadowing to make the moment believable when it occurs. The aftermath sees the film take a turn for the dramatic which still retains its grounded remit, as conflicting emotions and doubts start to seep in. In this way, the title gains significant double meaning – we now know what Richard did, but now what is he going to do about it?

Relative unknown Reynor really inhabits the role of Richard, balancing the conflicting aspects of the character to keep the audience mostly on his side. He carries and leads some of the more freeform scenes brilliantly and lets loose his pent up frustrations in one particularly powerful moment. The rest of the realistically young cast also does fine work, with the long rehearsal period leading to some great naturalistic moments that rarely feel unfocussed. Special mention has to go to Lars Mikkelsen (who you may recognise from the Danish TV version of The Killing) who makes a strong impression as Richard’s dad, despite little screen time.

Abrahamson takes things in a slightly more mainstream direction with What Richard Did, embracing a more obviously dramatic narrative but still embellishing it with convincing performances and a naturalistic feel. He draws marvellous performances from his young actors and a potentially star making turn from Reynor, together with some beautiful lensing from David Greenan, easily makes What Richard Did one of the best Irish made films of the year.

8 Stars
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