VOD film review: Redemption of a Rogue
James R | On 01, Oct 2021
Director: Philip Doherty
Cast: Aaron Monaghan, Kieran Roche, Aisling O’Mara
There are a lot of films that claim to boast a Groundhog Day-style premise, usually involving time loops or some other kind of chronological phenomenon. Redemption of a Rogue, the debut feature from playwright Philip Doherty, is less about time-hopping cycles and more about sheer existential crisis – and it plumbs those depths with a darkness that’s amusing, surprise and, well, dark.
The film follows Jimmy (Aaron Monaghan) who returns home to Ballylough with all the glory and warmth of a damp tea towel. Where you might expect a reconciliation with his dying father, you just get violent hostility. And even when a funeral arrives, there’s no sign of anyone actually lifting a finger to make it happen.
Why? Because in his dad’s will, a strange stipulation requires that he is only laid to rest on a day when it isn’t raining. And in the small town of Ballylough, it doesn’t do anything but rain – leaving Jimmy stuck in depressing, and depressingly moist, limbo.
It’s a wonderfully warped set-up, one that gives Doherty time to explore the eccentric locals and the tensions and grudges that still linger in the village, even years after Jimmy left in disgrace. The dialogue is twisted and taut, while the lone-man-in-a-remote-community scenario brings a Western-like tinge that sits somewhere between the Coen brothers and Martin McDonagh – even Jimmy’s brother, Damien (Kieran Roche), hates him.
There’s hope on the horizon, in the form of sultry singer Masha (a superbly dour and witty Aisling O’Mara), and the duo’s gradually sticking up the middle umbrella to the world around them gives you something to root for amid the dank melancholy. DoP Burschi Wojnar leans into the stormy atmosphere with some gorgeous footage of the close-knit town, while Doherty finds Biblical resonance in the family arguments, heavenly downpours and an inspired account of the plagues brought by Moses upon Egypt that taps into modern climate change concerns. A delightfully wicked treat.
This review was originally published during the 2021 Glasgow Film Festival.