In a brilliant song about the urban jungle on her album 'Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea', PJ Harvey sings of "universal laws", "inner charm", "city people in the dark" and "too many people out of love". It's a pity that licensing the music would've cost more than the entire budget for 'Trafficked' because it was the perfect soundtrack for Ciarán O'Connor's mix of thriller and unlikely romance.
Taiwo (Negga) arrives illegally in Dublin in the back of a van and goes on the run after escaping her handler. Keely (Shiels) is a smalltime con who gets the call to keep an eye out for her and, knowing exactly all the places he needs to look and people he needs to ask, finds her quite easily. But rather than being just another payday, Taiwo gets to Keely who, in moments of clarity, tries to leave the gutter behind and do the right thing. Others, however, don't have any such hang-ups.
One of the best debut crime movies of recent years was British director Eran Creevy's 'Shifty', a study of survivors, losers and those pulling their strings on a rundown estate. While O'Connor's film isn't as polished or memorable as Creevy's, it does capture the same sense of desperation and realities of life at the bottom and shows that he's another filmmaker worth watching out for in the future. As you'd expect given the subject matter, 'Trafficked' is grittily shot and is full of bad language and the worst of human nature - what's harder to figure is just how it's all going to end.
As the odd couple trying to stay one step ahead of some very nasty people, Shiels and Negga are both strong in their respective roles: humour and heart makes Keely more than just a one-dimensional schemer, while the voiceover of letters home give Taiwo more depth. O'Connor's script does a good job of showing the conflict between the child self, the parent self and the adult self in each of them and you end up wanting to spend longer with the duo than the story/budget allows.
Made for next-to-nothing, 'Trafficked' makes you wonder what its director could do with more time and money. Hopefully we won't have to wait too long to find out.