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INDIECORK 2017

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I’m Talking to You: The surreal life of a trainee Irish Guard

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- Thomas Quain's first feature, presented at IndieCork, delves into the role of the police in contemporary Irish society

I’m Talking to You: The surreal life of a trainee Irish Guard
Aidan Lawlor and Jed Murray in I'm Talking to You

The second world premiere at this year’s IndieCork Film Festival was that of I’m Talking to You, the debut feature by Thomas Quain, which was presented on 11 October at the Blacknight Festival Centre. 

Produced by Victor McGowan and Anna Ginjaume Grivé for Constant Motion Pictures, I’m Talking to You is set on and around the M50 motorway, outside of Dublin, where a new recruit in the Irish Guard, Mark (Aidan Lawlor), spends his days listlessly driving in circles and doing routine checks, accompanied by his more experienced and obnoxious colleague Liam (Jed Murray). The pair are the protagonists of several improvised scenes, where Mark and Liam act like a proper comic duo and have intense discussions on the usefulness of the police force and their role as officers.

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Mark’s monotonous existence is unexpectedly interrupted by two major events: a sudden meeting with Louise (Alice Stands), the lover of local politician Donovan (Robert O’Connor), and the discovery of a pirate radio signal spewing out propaganda. These two plot twists gradually push him to head away from the M50 and question the morals and structure of Irish society on a larger scale. The pirate radio signal is seen by Mark as a unique chance to do some good. The young trainee wants to make himself useful by seeking out the truth behind Donovan’s plotting and, finally, breaking his unbearable routine. 

The narrative potential of I’m Talking to You would most likely have been increased by a more coherent choice in terms of what kind of social criticism was broached during the second half of the story. In the beginning, the movie seems to question the role of the police force on its own; later on, the stress is put on the entire Irish society and its rules. This strong change of focus is conveyed by the appearance of Marianne (Nelly Henrion), a young French protester who approaches Mark and Liam while they are on one of their breaks.

The goal to combine both criticisms in an 82-minute feature seems quite ambitious, and more thorough work on the script might have enhanced the final result. After the screening, the director himself admitted that a significant part of the film was based on the actors’ improvisations, with the inspiration coming from the surrounding environment. This has certainly brought some quality footage to the film, but a more balanced relationship between key scripted events and casual filmmaking would probably have made up for these narrative shortcomings. Quain had been working on this project for three years, financing it through his own savings and covering his living costs by working part-time in the film industry and accepting a number of odd jobs.

On the whole, the first feature by Thomas Quain is a noteworthy work, carried to a great extent by the comic strength of duo Lawlor and Murray, a captivating and pervasive soundtrack, and some particularly successful characters – namely, the shop assistant (Vinny McHale) and the bearded homeless man (Stephen Doring), who enhance the surreal tone of the film. Their appearances may be short, but they effectively break up the dark atmosphere of several scenes and make the film very enjoyable. This surreal dimension could have been further exploited, as it really seems to be in Quain’s wheelhouse.

I’m Talking to You is being distributed by Irish firm Constant Motion Pictures.

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