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
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