Irish Film Review: Calm With Horses (On Volta Now)

Review by Frances Winston

Directed by: Nick Rowland – Starring: Cosmo Jarvis, Barry Keoghan, Niamh Algar, Ned Dennehy, Kiljan Moroney, David Wilmot

Available on Volta Now

Like many movies, this offering had its cinema run cut short when the CoVid lockdowns hit. But if you missed your opportunity to see it on the big screen, fear not, as you can now catch it in the comfort of your living room.

Jarvis stars as ‘Arm’, an ex-boxer, who has been sucked into a dubious life as an enforcer for a criminal family.

Alongside this, he struggles with understanding his autistic son, and is particularly affected when the child’s mother, Ursula (Algar) wants to move him away, so he can attend a school that can cater to his needs.

After an incident at a party, he is asked to deal with a deviant, but finds himself unable to cross the line into murder. However, his decision to ignore the orders of his bosses will have serious consequences.

Gritty is actually too understated a word for this. It makes Guy Ritchie’s early work look like a tea party. It is visceral and in your face from the off.

The soundtrack is incredible, and nearly acts as a separate character. Jarvis, whom you will recognise from The Umbrella Club on Netflix, puts in a good turn as the hired muscle who is too easily led.

However, the standout performance here comes from Ned Dennehy as Paudi, the leader of the criminal gang, who rules over his domain with an iron fist. Algar also puts in an impressive performance as Arm’s long-suffering ex, and it’s easy to see why she is one of Ireland’s rising stars. In fact, the entire ensemble cast do a wonderful job, and connect with each other brilliantly.

This will make you wince, as well as moving you deeply. It is an incredibly multifaceted story, that speaks to the viewer on a basic human level. Extremely dark and deeply affecting, this keeps the viewer engaged until the final frame.

Definitely one of the best Irish films of the year.

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