‘I knew it was coming, I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly’.
This phrase is uttered in a quiet style by Tim (Robert O Mahoney) whilst drinking vodka early on in Conor Horgan’s quietly superb One Hundred Mornings. When the end of the civilised world arrives one imagines it would happen the way it is shown here. It seems to have ceased to exist not with a loud crack but a sickening whimper. What is left are pockets of people clinging together hoping that something, indeed anything will happen to bring back familiarity. Instead we have empty towns and an Ireland where the Gardai are carrying shotguns.
Two couples, Jonathan (Ciaran Mc Menamin) and Hannah (Alex Reid) and Mark (Rory Keenan) and Katie (Kelly Campbell) are holed up in a cabin in Wicklow. There has been an unspecified event that seems to have brought general western standard of living to a standstill. Food is being rationed and the electricity has been out for quite a while. There is an older neighbour (Tim) who is friendly but distant with the group. The two couples are living on top of each other and nerves are frayed. Supplies are dwindling and they lack any real weapons to defend themselves. Clearly something unprecedented has taken place and as outsiders begin to learn that this group still has supplies, the threats start to multiply.
It is not difficult to read this as a mirroring of our times. The theme is not particularly subtle but its execution is done very subtly and without fanfare. To Horgan’s credit he gets the information out, not with chunks of exposition, but with visual clues throughout. There is no real talk of what happened but instead we get visuals: the accumulated detritus under an abandoned car’s windscreen wipers. Even Jonathan’s smoking one cigarette a day to make them last gives a sense of the time that has passed and the time left ahead of them. There is a subplot here involving infidelity within the group but unusually it does not become a dominant issue. There is a cold logic to this. If you are facing starvation that would probably take precedence over everything else.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the film is in the tiny incidental pleasures in glimpsing things that were always taken for granted. There is a scene of great joy when normalization returns briefly. To say more would be to spoil it but it shows how much we take for granted and how much we miss things when they are gone. The tiniest pleasures for the most fleeting of moments work well here and are believable and organic within the story. The cinematography by Suzie Lavelle is quite beautiful making full use of the wonderful Wicklow locations. The score by Chris White is sparse and is used brilliantly to accentuate the loneliness and hopelessness of the situation. The acting is pretty good from the four leads - if a little uneven. Mc Menamin stands out in the ensemble as one to watch. O’Mahoney as the neighbour who does great work in the amount of screen time he has.
There is a brilliant shot of Hannah scrubbing clothes in a stream that calls to mind those famine drawings of women doing the same thing. And it is to those times that the film reaches back to. A time where people left and took their chance someplace else or stayed and died. It is this nihilistic viewpoint which is the film’s key strength. It works within the film and also as an analysis of the times we now find ourselves in. One Hundred Mornings is probably the first film to address the mess Ireland currently finds itself in and like the politicians we depend on, it offers us no way out of it. As a film dealing with end times this is not one of the zombie persuasions which give you easily definable heroes and villains. It says straight out that the enemies are ourselves and that we better make some difficult choices before it is too late. All this may does not give you the feel good DVD release of the summer, but it deserves to be seen by a large audience who can appreciate a low budget and superbly realised film.
Out on DVD Monday 23rd July.