Sparse laughs in a grim set­ting

WIDE OPEN SPA­CES Di­rected by Tom Hall. Star­ring Ardal O’Han­lon, Ewen Brem­ner, Owen Roe, Don Wy­cher­ley, Mor­wenna Banks, Ger­ard McSor­ley 15A cert, lim release, 90 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews -

NOW, THIS sounds en­tic­ing. Arthur Mathews, co-cre­ator of Fa­ther Ted and au­thor of the ter­rific book Well Re­mem­bered Days, writes a script about two layabouts work­ing in a Famine theme park. Ardal O’Han­lon and Ewen Brem­ner play the bum­bling he­roes and Tom Hall, co-in­sti­ga­tor of Bach­e­lor’s Walk, is the di­rec­tor.

This sounds like some­thing worth see­ing. Heck, it sounds good enough to jus­tify fork­ing out for a cab to the cin­ema.

Well, just about. Shot with grey ac­tors in grey clothes on grey sets be­neath grey skies, Wide Open Spa­ces cer­tainly has the courage of its Beck­et­tian con­vic­tions.

Beginning in the style of the cult Mag­nus Mills book The Re­straint of Beasts (which Gra­ham Line­han, the other Fa­ther Ted bloke, was ru­moured to be adapt­ing for film), the script sends its he­roes to a rick­ety shed where they bicker with their boss (the re­li­ably sleazy Owen Roe), fail at var­i­ous im­pos­si­ble tasks and make friends with lo­cal odd­balls. Mor­wenna Banks turns up as a las­civ­i­ous poshy with an in­ter­est in video art.

O’Han­lon and Brem­ner, the first mo­rose, the sec­ond a tad more fran­tic, form an ef­fec­tive dou­ble act and, aided by Hall’s loose-limbed cam­era moves, the film has a grungy feel that suits the grim sub­ject mat­ter nicely.

For all that, there’s some­thing not quite right about Wide Open Spa­ces. Whereas the open­ing mo­ments of sparse ab­sur­dity work well, the plot’s later com­pli­ca­tions – there’s some­thing about a cor­rupt politi­cian and an in­evitable mis­laid wad of ban­knotes – feel like they’ve been shipped in from a more con­ven­tional, less agree­ably odd lo­cale.

This is, per­haps, a de­cent short film with ideas above its sta­tion.

Hut mates: Ewen Brem­ner and Ardal O’Han­lon in Wide Open Spa­ces

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