2013 was not a vintage year for Irish film. There were some exceptions of course but a small handful of films aside, the quality was down on 2012 which was an excellent year. It is an odd thing in a lot of ways exclusively reviewing Irish films. You really want them to be good and when they are not, you do not want to kick them around and hurt their chances to get wider distribution. At the same time you do not want to over-hype a film and disappoint an audience. This has been the case in the past and nothing makes an already sceptical audience even more tentative when approaching the next ‘great’ Irish film. All that can be done is to be fair, if you do not like something, say so but crucially explain why. It sounds simple but it is not done as much as it should be. So as I approached my first film of 2014 I was hoping for something to give me that feeling of optimism, something to make me think that 2014 could be our year. My first film of 2014 was Shaun Ryan’s Limp and if this is the standard that is being set it looks like being a fine year indeed.
Limp tells the story of Mr. Grot (Eoin Quinn) who lives the most solitary of lives. Seemingly permanently in his own head, his days seem punctuated with whatever fantasy he can concoct. We can tell early on that something is very wrong. The pulsing soundtrack (take a bow Chris Zabriskie) accompanies Mr. Grot on a shopping expedition to some women’s clothes shops. Of course he could be buying a present for his wife or girlfriend but something in the way he touches the dresses make you suspect he is not. It is this moment early on in the film that is key to the success of Eoin Quinn in the central role. Calm and quiet but silently screaming, the curdling loneliness and flashes of anger flit across his face every so often. He comes home after buying a dress and director Ryan shows his confidence with a superb long take in which we discover the full horror of Mr. Grots living arrangements.
It is not a spoiler to say that Mr Grot has a dead woman in his apartment. A former co-worker Catherine (Anne Gill) has been missing for a while and while we do not see what happened to her we do see the aftermath. That in a nutshell is where the power of Limp resides. It is a kind of horror film but not gruesome in the slightest. It is about the horror of decay, be it spiritual, mental or physical. It leaves so much to the imagination, forcing your mind to turn over the possible details. We see scenes either real or imagined from Mr. Grot’s point of view. These have a nightmarish and hallucinatory quality. This gives an insight to the growing sickness in Mr. Grot's mind. There is a genuine question that takes shape midway through the film. Will the ‘happy’ couple reside in the apartment until someone comes knocking or will Mr. Grot make a decision that will change everything.
There are a couple of minor problems with Limp. The first one is that the film is only about an hour long. I have no idea if this will make distribution more difficult but I hope not as it is a film that deserves a proper release. I also have a problem with some of the names in the film. The name Mr. Grot could have been a little less on the nose. I also could live the rest of my life without seeing working class ‘scumbags’ being called Anto and Jacinta. Filmmakers, working class people have other names, they do not all end with a vowel. But these are minor quibbles.
Shaun Ryan has assembled a fine film here. There is even a series of scenes not obviously connected to the main narrative that are revealed to be not quite what you think they are. For this I applaud the filmmaker. He has obviously watched enough horror films to know that the power of them lives in the lack of information given. Limp is more of a mood piece than a classical horror narrative and is all the better for it. The two main actors give fine performances with Quinn in particular an uneasy presence. The film is scratchy and nervous just like its lead character. Limp is a very good calling card on what looks like quite a low budget. I for one look forward to what he does next.