En­dan­gered species

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

MICHAEL Camp­bell, a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian farmer in Zim­babwe who em­ploys hun­dreds of peo­ple, has been dragged into a mon­u­men­tal con­flict against his will. In re­cent years, as a re­sult of pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe’s “land re­form” pol­icy, the coun­try’s white farm­ers have been in­tim­i­dated, at­tacked and forced off their land.

Hav­ing spent two decades pay­ing for his farm, Camp­bell digs in and re­fuses to bow to the real threat of vi­o­lence, tak­ing the case to an in­ter­na­tional court in Namibia. Camp­bell’s re­la­tion­ship with his fam­ily and em­ploy­ees is well-drawn, while Mu­gabe’s pres­ence seems om­nipo­tent – from his smil­ing posters to his in­cen­di­ary pub­lic speeches and in the pres­ence of his poised le­gal team.

There’s gen­uine sus­pense both in Camp­bell’s everyday life as an en­dan­gered species, and in the tan­ta­lis­ingly brief court­room scenes.

This well-crafted doc­u­men­tary is a dou­ble-think: It’s at once an un­nerv­ing doc­u­ment of in­sti­tu­tional in­jus­tice, and an in­spir­ing story of courage and de­fi­ance. AF­TER A re­cent run of dire Ir­ish re­leases, it’s a plea­sure to wel­come this highly orig­i­nal and tonally as­sured, if some­what slight, de­but fea­ture from Mar­garet Cork­ery.

Largely set in and around a windy Wick­low beach, Ea­mon de­tails the com­plex, some­times queasy in­ter­ac­tions be­tween a young boy (Robert Don­nelly), his un­fo­cused mother (Amy Kir­wan) and her per­ma­nently grumpy part­ner (Dar­ren Healy).

We be­gin with Grace, mother of the mis­chievous Ea­mon, re­ceiv­ing the keys to a hol­i­day cot­tage from her dis­ap­prov­ing mother. Al­most broke, the dys­func­tional three­some make their way to the quaint, if ba­sic cabin for a few days of bick­er­ing, booz­ing and ca­sual sur­re­al­ism. The adults get in a fight with a bar­man. Ea­mon be­comes part of a nau­se­at­ingly en­thu­si­as­tic youth leader’s gam­bolling posse. Faint hints of ca­sual men­ace gather over the un­wel­com­ing Ir­ish Sea.

On one level, the film is an amus­ing sketch of a class of su­per­seded Ir­ish hol­i­day that few adults re­mem­ber with any fond­ness: bad food, mis­er­able pubs, too many grudg­ingly pur­chased soft drinks. More se­ri­ously, Ea­mon gets to grips with the un­spo­ken hos­til­ity, born of in­tru­sion, that of­ten sim­mers be­tween young chil­dren and their in­ex­pe­ri­enced par­ents.

But the film works best as an ex­er­cise in creative ab­sur­dity. Boosted by clean, pri­mary-hued cam­er­a­work from Paki Smith and wist­ful mu­sic by Colin J Mor­ris– al­ter­nately strummy and am­bi­ent – Ea­mon has barely enough plot to fill its 85 min­utes, but the sin­cer­ity of its mak­ers’ in­tent is never in doubt. A promis­ing start.

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