‘In a second your life could change’
These are the words uttered by Fred (Colm Meaney) midway through Darragh Byrne’s debut feature film, Parked. Fred has come back to Ireland after an unspecified period living in England. Presumably because he has been living out of Ireland for sometime he is not entitled to money or housing by the state. This leads to him living in his car in a deserted car park on the coast of Dublin. That is, at least, deserted until a ‘neighbour’ in another car moves in called Cathal (Colin Morgan): a dope smoking young guy with a more relaxed attitude to life. Before long they become friends and this changes both their lives.
To bastardise a football cliché, this is a film of two halves. The first half of the film is by far the best. We are fed slivers of information about Fred’s past. There is a hint of alcoholism here with possible disastrous ramifications for his family situation. This informs the character greatly, with Meaney’s haunted eyes conveying a past full of regret and a reluctance to confront a lonely future. Cathal has troubles of his own; such as a drug habit that looks set to land him in trouble. He shrugs of Fred’s warnings on the subject with the classic ‘sure it will be grand’ gesture he has.
As good as the melancholic beginning is, there is a sense of a missed opportunity here. Fred’s background is ripe for more investigation, perhaps to touch upon the generation of men of Fred’s age who emigrated to England and who have fallen on hard times. There is also a problem in introducing Cathal as a drug addict. This leads to the worry that comes in certain films once you introduce a drug addict in a film there are clichés to be run through. Sadly this is the case. There is also the introduction of a love interest for Fred in the shape of Jules (Milka Ahlroth), a Finnish music teacher. This again would lead you to believe that there will be a ‘will they, wont they’ scenario throughout the rest of the film which also is the case.
And yet, there are good things here. There are some funny moments in this film, one in particular involving a postal address. The casting is very good with Meaney doing his usual great job. One suspects that if he had been let off the leash a little more this could have been an incredible turn. Fred is a buttoned up character, quiet and introspective. The one thing this would lead you to believe is that there must be a scene where he explodes and/or breaks down. This I would love to have seen but alas, it is not to be. In fact Colin Morgan is the real star here: terrific and warm in a clichéd and straitjacketed role. There should be more to come from him. Milka Ahlroth does OK with a thinly drawn role of the love interest. The film is also nicely shot in what looks like one of the coldest winters in recent times. The blues of the sky and sea echo the cold and loneliness of the situation. This also amplifies the sheer horror of homelessness in general in our society and the casual indifference of our Government on the issue.
The last act of the film will, depending on your viewpoint, either move you or annoy you with its predictability. There will be people who will disagree with me here but the potential for a moving denouement is ruined by the utter bog standard plotting of the outcome. This is signposted from a long way out and it is a real pity as there is a small scene right at the end that works wonderfully. But it is too late as it follows scenes that have already taken you out the story in an emotional way. Parked is ultimately an interesting but frustratingly predictable and uneven film. It will be interesting to see what the director Darragh Byrne will do next as he has a good eye for a scene and armed with a better script may well produce a great film. Unfortunately Parked is not that film.