It has been a very memorable year for Irish films - 'Once', 'Small Engine Repair', the recent 'Kings' and now 'Garage'. Working again with 'Prosperity' and 'Adam & Paul' scriptwriter Mark O'Halloran, director Lenny Abrahamson has made a very thought-provoking film about rural isolation and the outsider.

Josie (Shortt) has lived his whole life in a very small town, working in a garage for a former classmate (Keogh) who's just sitting on the dilapidated property until the right offer comes along from the developers. The days roll into one another: fill the cars; shut the garage; have something to eat; walk into town for a few pints and then go home. Repeat until there's no chance of you ever knowing if there's anything else to life.

When a teenage boy (Ryan) - the son of his boss' girlfriend - comes to work with Josie it's a chance for him to talk to someone different, and perhaps avoid being labelled like he has by everyone else in the town. But Josie's desperation to be liked brings him to a crossroads in his life.

The Art House Cinema award at the Cannes Film Festival won't be the only honour to come 'Garage's way and whatever prizes await, it will be a deserving winner. This is a subtle film which says a lot with very little and one which avoids convenient resolutions.

It is driven by a superb performance from Shortt. Removed from the buffoonery of 'Killinaskully' - and this is the antithesis of that - he shows just how good an actor he is. Playing the misfit with a poignancy that bears down on you more with every scene, this will, hopefully, be the first of many more serious roles for him.

If the script for 'Garage' has a failing it's that more work needed to be done on the supporting characters - while less can be more on film, it's not always the case. Duff's character, like Wycherley's, had more potential than what has ended up onscreen, and having featured both in some very memorable scenes, it's frustrating that they just disappear from the film as it draws to a close.

That said, Abrahamson and O'Halloran show that they've as much to say about the dynamics of country life as they did with the city setting of 'Prosperity' and 'Adam & Paul'. Shortt's performance aside, the great achievement here is making an Irish film whose story could be transported to anywhere around the world and still hold true. The setting is parochial, but the themes and emotions are universal.

Harry Guerin