by Vitor Pinto
Funny, moving and tragic, Garage [+see also:
interview: Ed Guiney
interview: Jean-François Deveau
interview: Lenny Abrahamson
film profile], the second feature collaboration between director Lenny Abrahamson and scriptwriter Mark O'Holloran – after the award-winning Adam & Paul (see news) – was rumoured to be one of Cannes' good surprises. Confirmation arrived this morning as the film touched the audience of its Directors' Fortnight screening.
Garage tells the story of Josie, a lonely man who looks after a dilapidated petrol station in the Irish mid-west. Despite his lack of success with women and being seen by the rest of the locals as being just another harmless nobody, Josie is nevertheless optimistic. His life will suddenly gain some colour when the teenage David comes to work with him during summer holidays.
The film takes us on a poignant journey, beginning with a glimpse of the locals’ tolerant attitude towards Josie, followed by the character's cheerful transformation as he wanders around with teenagers having beers with them. Actor Pat Shortt gives Josie an incredibly large human dimension, keeping his performance deliberately away from easy stereotypes and judgemental satire.
"What attracted me to the role was his simplicity. I knew it was very different to what had been done before about a character in a rural community," said Shorrt. "But bringing such a character to life was difficult. I was constantly trying to pull it back. In many ways the character is like the ones I write myself, but the comedy is much, much quieter, and the tragedy louder".
More than a portrait of loneliness, Garage also opens a subtle reflection on the role small communities play in people's behaviour. "This is a film about the transformations in rural Ireland that make Josie, and people like him, rootless or homeless," said Abrahamson, who decided to shoot those castrating feelings as an indicator of tragedy.
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