It’s the season for festive dramatic comedies about awkward and / or grotesque comebacks. There will be worse ways to dodge the rush to the high streets than this funky Irish Christmas indie, in which Boston lawyer Daniel (Michiel Huisman) returns to his hometown of Cork after his mother’s death for chaperone her autistic teenage brother Louis (Samuel Bottomley).
Writer-director Aoife Crehan acknowledges a certain debt to the once-award-winning, now-outdated Rain Man early on, and is no less outspoken about his dramatic tricks. The first act is a blizzard of nonsense designed to get the brothers and mortuary assistant Mary (Niamh Algar) into a Volvo carrying a coffin containing the body of the stranger Daniel was sitting next to on his flight. Weather that, and you can settle in for a road movie in the middle of the road through misty provincial Ireland: softly heartwarming, slightly fun, only loosely linked to real life. Inevitably, family secrets are unearthed and solved along the way; inevitably, the two adults have a moment, then a tiff, before pushing towards reconciliation.
Crehan knits it like a worn onesie: you know exactly what shape it’ll look like when wrapped up, but that doesn’t mean it lacks comfort and warmth. Strange surprises keep him from being predictable: there are some really good gags related to Louis’ soup habit and a completely unexpected rebirth of the comedian. Denis Leary’s single Asshole in 1996, which seems to have stuck in Crehan’s head longer than in the charts.
Artists, on the other hand, roll up the sleeves of their winter clothing and strive to lend an inherently thin material what they can. Huisman moves forward in a pleasantly pleasant second gear, but Bottomley is brighter, and there’s another useful boost to Algar’s profile, so compelling in The Virtues of Shane Meadows on TV.
The Last Right releases in the UK on December 6th.