Directed by Lance Daly, starring Stephen Rea, Kerry Condon, Gerard McSorley, Grattan Smith, Laurence Kinlan, Brendan Cauldwell, John Kavanagh, Mick Lally, Fiona O'Shaughnessy, Willie Higgins, Eanna MacLiam, Neilí Conroy and Amelia Crowley.

A comic tale of gambling induced financial desperation, 'The Halo Effect' revolves around a group of equally desperate characters and a grubby little Dublin chipper.

The man they call Fatso (Rea) takes a step back to find that gambling has completely taken over his life and left him with nothing only fear and hatred. Somehow though he still manages to exude a glow of humanity that touches everyone around him, most of whom are too consumed by self-love or alcohol addiction to notice his intentions.

Set predominantly in Fatso's greasy neon-lit chipper over a week-long period, 'The Halo Effect' looks at the lives of a number of very different characters drawn together by their desperate need to be part of something. Fatso lost the love for running the late-night business a long time ago. Yearning after a wife and child that are no longer part of his life, he is left with a band of layabouts and down-and-outs for company.

Fatso works around the clock just to try to square old debts, with a different loan shark on his back every day, taking extreme measures to get what they want. To make matters worse, his lazy staff - Rock Steady Eddie (Delaney), Mick (Smith) and out of place Southsider Jean (Condon) - can't seem to grasp the concept of an honest day's work.

The range of characters that wander in and out of Fatso's chipper are varied, from drunks to homeless teenagers, to thugs. The heavily in debt priest (Lally) and money hoarder Willie (Cauldwell) are amongst the most entertaining of the lot, with the antics of the chipper staff in battle against Fatso's money lenders (Kavanagh, McSorley, Higgins) resulting in some destructive, yet funny, scraps.

Throughout the seven depressing days that are played out, it is the relationship that develops between snap happy student Jean and Fatso that brings a certain warmth to the film, in the midst of the surrounding bleakness. Eventually, after another good deed for a thankless customer, Fatso finds himself gambling his life's earnings, including his precious chip shop, on a game of snap with a child, in one last bid to save his dignity.

Stephen Rea is, as ever, convincing and authentic as the down on his luck chip shop owner struggling to keep his head above water. Somehow too he manages to be charming in the world of filth and depravity that he inhabits, where human kindness seems like and ill-affordable luxury.  

If 'The Halo Effect' leaves you with any message, it's that life is one big gamble... It's all about the cards that you're dealt.

Linda McGee