Mister JohnThursday 26 Sep 2013
Director: Joe Lawlor, Christine Molloy
Starring: Aidan Gillen, Zoe Tay, Claire Keelan, Michael Thomas
Duration: 95 minutes
A languid lake, tropical trees and a floating corpse - an opening scene that is equally as still and eerie as this film's story of a man attempting to deal with the aftermath of infidelity and loss.
Gerry Devine (Gillen) is an Irishman living in London, who, following the discovery of his wife's infidelity, is forced to make a trip to Singapore. His brother, John, has been found floating face down in a tropical lake.
Upon his arrival in this sticky foreign paradise, Gerry becomes seduced by the chance to escape his problems at home by slipping into the space his brother left behind. His brother's beguiling widow Kim (Tay) is all too willing to help in that seduction.
Plagued by a series of feverish dreams - no doubt induced by a mixture of jetlag and a very nasty snake bite - Gerry is torn between dealing with the issues in his own life or simply embracing his brother's old one.
Husband and wife team Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy have taken an audience through a story of identity crisis before in 2008's feature-length Helen and Mister John is similar in its restrained and almost dreamlike narrative. Also, like Helen, the story of Mister John could have easily led it to become just another run-of-the-mill thriller, but Lawlor and Molloy have again opted to take a more character-focused approach.
They have chosen not to give us a whole and complete story: we never really learn much about Gerry's wife or Kim's relationship with her husband before his death. However, what we are given is an intimate snapshot of a precise moment in the lives of these characters - a rare and beautiful thing in cinema today.
Lawlor and Molloy are also masters at pulling us into the world that their characters inhabit. For example, the close-ups of sweat-soaked brows; long, crisp shots of the tropical landscape and a beautifully atmospheric score give us a clear insight into Gerry's disorientated mental state before he ever utters a line.
In fact, dialogue is given a real backseat in this film, a choice that may not have worked so well if anyone other than Aidan Gillen was playing the lead. Gillen has the impressive ability to draw you in with nothing more than a facial expression and his blank stares in the moments before his character lapses into a painful memory from home expose more about Gerry than any script ever could.
Although some viewers may find Mister John a little too slow-moving and the general tone a little too subdued, those willing to embrace these things as deliberate and necessary mood-setting tools will be more than rewarded by this captivating, authentic and inspired film.