Hard to be­lieve, and harder to dis­like

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

Is every­day de­cency and hu­man warmth enough to be get­ting on with? Just about. Conor McDer­mot­troe’s fit­ful com­edy con­cern­ing at­tempts to set up a Ha­lal abat­toir in Sligo has both qual­i­ties in abun­dance. The cast groans with ac­tors we know and love. Ha­lal Daddy is fre­quently clunky and loses its way badly in a dis­con­nected fi­nal act. But it re­mains charm­ing through­out.

Nikesh Pa­tel plays Ragh­dan Aziz, an Asian kid grow­ing up rea­son­ably hap­pily with his aunt (Deirdre O’Kane) and un­cle (Paul Ty­lak) in the breezy north­west. He goes surf­ing with his slacker mates. He dates the spir­ited, amus­ing Maeve (Sarah Bol­ger, ex­cel­lent).

All that’s miss­ing is a comic com­pli­ca­tion to make the town come alive with in­ci­dent. That ar­rives when Ragh­dan’s dad (the vet­eran Art Ma­lik) jets in with the no­tion of trans­form­ing a dis­used abat­toir into a go­ing con­cern to serve the lo­cal Mus­lim com­mu­nity. Ragh­dan is in­stalled as man­ager. Maeve’s dad (Colm Meaney with an ac­cent that fails to cross the Shan­non) is also part of the su­per­vis­ing team.

There is some fear­ful con­trivance to the com­edy. Early on, Ragh­dan and Maeve fall out when he sees her spend­ing time with a lo­cal com­edy Ger­man. He tells her “it” is un­ac­cept­able. She can’t see what is wrong with “it”. Any­body who has seen a film be­fore will know they mean some­thing dif­fer­ent by “it”. Although Ty­lak and O’Kane – stylish, tal­ented troop­ers – do their best, the run­ning gag con­cern­ing their char­ac­ters’ sex­ual vo­ra­cious­ness feels wear­ingly dated.

The script, cred­ited to McDer­mot­troe and Mark O’Hal­lo­ran, does, how­ever, touch upon some real so­cial con­fu­sions and con­tem­po­rary ab­sur­di­ties. En­coun­ter­ing Ragh­dan af­ter a mys­te­ri­ous ab­sence, O’Kane has fun with the line: “We were be­gin­ning to think you’d been rad­i­calised.” There is, at such points, a hint of dan­ger that adds a fris­son to an oth­er­wise cosy pro­duc­tion.

Such flavours are ab­sent in a clos­ing sec­tion that jar­ringly aban­dons the cen­tral con­ceit and takes us some­where else en­tirely. The film ends even more im­plau­si­bly than it be­gins, but it’s still very nice.

Sarah Bol­ger, Colm Meaney and Nikesh Pa­tel in Ha­lal Daddy

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