At the end of the director's commentary on the DVD of The Long Good Friday, John Mackenzie recalls the concerns of his star Bob Hoskins about the closing scene of the thriller, where the camera stays tight on the silent actor for a number of minutes. Mackenzie's advice to the (relatively) new-to-movies Hoskins was that there was no need to worry; the scene would work and he didn't need to say anything because the camera could read his mind. It's wisdom that Antonia Campbell-Hughes is also in possession of, judging by the power of her performance in this unsettling Irish film.
She plays Arlene, a misfit - and one of life's watchers - in an unnamed town which, it seems, just sucks the hope out of everyone. Arlene's is a lonely life of dreary-bedsit-to-dead-end-factory-job-and-back-again, complicated by the fact that she is a sleepwalker and regularly has to deal with morning-after terror. When a young woman of around Arlene's age is murdered, it triggers an obsession with the victim's story and family and more time spent thinking about the death of her own mother. It seems there are plenty of people in the town with something to hide - is Arlene one of them?
Whatever the budget limitations that director Daly experienced on her feature debut, they didn't impact on her ability to tell this story of quiet desperation, smalltown whispers and menace. It is slow-moving and some scenes work better than others, but there is also much to savour - Suzie Lavelle's cinematography (IFTA nominated along with director and star), excellent use of locations, and, of course, the stillness and spookiness of Campbell-Hughes as Arlene. A constant companion throughout the movie is the thought that this is one actress we need to see more of, and she inspires genuine excitement about the roles that lie ahead - any director who watches her in this will be convinced she is worth keeping an eye on.
And if someone has a good script for a supernatural thriller, they should really send it Daly's way.