Reading Time: 4 minutes
Here’s a movie I watched yesterday (Saturday 27th February)
I stumbled upon it whilst looking for movies to watch on Netflix and noticed it was an Irish prison drama.
So I haven’t watched many Irish movies at all, and the accent, alongside the fact that I enjoy prison drama’s in general (I’ve also been watching ‘the world’s most notorious prisons’ on Netflix which has run for maybe 5-6 series – demonstrating how popular this type of feature is) meant that this one made it to my ‘watch list’.
The movie follows the central character Michael whose an 18-year-old boy living on or near an estate in Dublin that spends time hanging out with some dodgy characters.
He lives alone with this grandad and his own father is already serving time in the “Medical Unit” in prison.
Michael himself is a quiet boy, who sees his girlfriend Orla and has a mate Gary who involves him in the holding of Cocaine.
This ultimately becomes Michael’s undoing as he stashes £2,000 worth of Coke in his bedroom, and when told to ‘move it’ i.e take it out of his home and put it somewhere else he doesn’t.
As a consequence, he’s soon arrested when policemen enter his home with a warrant to search the property and find the cocaine.
He ends up being charged with the possession of class A drugs with the intent to supply and ends up with a custodial sentence for 3 months.
The movie was filmed in Dublin and Cork Prison and received funding from the Irish Film Board, and was filmed after heavy consultation with prisoners who’d passed through the Irish prison system’s pathway programme.
Frank Berry – the director of the movie has evidently put a lot of time and effort into researching this piece before filming – and the result is that’s it’s a compelling drama that sucks you in from the outset with it’s dark and quiet narrative.
Michael the central character is an introvert, and it’s the movie’s silence that speaks volumes as you watch his life inside prison unfold, as he becomes a victim of, contributor of and witness to (and in that order) all kinds of prison brutality.
[Warning – I’m about to give you some spoilers]
Basically – this means Michael gets beaten up, beats someone up, and is involved in prison napalm’ (as per my Googling) whereby someone has boiling water mixed with sugar (which makes a sticky paste thus intensifying the burn) poured upon their face for not settling debt as quickly as they possibly could have.
There’s more but I won’t spoil it all.
Meanwhile, in parallel, his grandad Francis is victimised on the outside by the very people Michael was holding the drugs for. They consider Michael and by extension his grandfather to be in debt to them.
Ultimately Michael serves his sentence, is released and looks like he may be able to recover and live a normal life, with his grandfather having paid the debt and Michael looking to college to study Social Care.
Questions The Movie Asks
This doesn’t turn out to be the case as those thugs return and Michael decides to take action which sets the movie up for a brutal and extremely powerful ending.
The wider questions the movie I guess asks are:
- Does prison irrevocably doom you to a sullied existence through the extreme intimacy that prisoners develop with criminality?
- Can anyone really escape the prison hierarchy of needing to ‘know someone’ of ‘holding things’ and ‘you’re gonna have to fight’ simply as a means of surviving?
- Is the social system, as demonstrated by another released convict’s inability to collect his weekly job seekers allowance, massively inept at being able to help support those who need it most?
There are probably even more questions the movie raises with a gripping portrayal of prison life that in many respects exists both inside, as well as, outside of the jailor’s walls. For it is upon Michael’s release you see the same neighbourhood he existed in before prison – but it feels not much less rotten than being inside.
I won’t spoil the rest for you other than say I recommend you watch it.
I’ve never seen any of these actors (the three main central one’s) in any other movies – Dafhyd Flynn (Michael McCrae), Moe Dunford (who plays David, a gangster inside prison whose a very scary foil to Michael’s soft nature and leads Michael into darkness) and Lalor Roddy – who plays the granddad Francis McCrae.
Writing this review is making me wonder if I will end up watching out for them more (let’s see).
In any event. Watch this movie.
This is when someone in prison who hasn’t paid his debt to Michael’s.