Monday, July 19, 2021

Nowhere Special – a film about love and death, kindness and perspectives (QFT and Omniplex)

John is a window cleaner with an occupational perspective into other people’s lives. At the same time, he is searching with social services to find an adoptive family to look after his perceptive young son Michael when he’s no longer there. 

The reason that John is a single parent and the detail about his life-changing circumstances are gently revealed, allowing a sadness to slowly creep across the 96-minute film. Screenwriter/director Uberto Pasolini based Nowhere Special on a newspaper story he read.

The on-screen chemistry between Michael (Daniel Lamont) and John (James Norton) is believable. The father’s love for his child is well-established, along with Michael’s adoration for his dad. Norton sets out with a steely resilience that at first masks the urgency of the deadline to which his search must work, while Lamont’s gaze portrays a sense of trust, and his gentle manner shines in some later moments when he instinctively steps into a caring role. Norton’s Norn Iron accent is very good, though it never quite matches his son’s brogue.

While I was never quite sure which rules student social worker Shona was breaking, the tears in Eileen O’Higgins eyes made me want her to get away with it.

Set in and around greater Belfast, the location is unimportant to the story, although it provides a great set of cameos for local actors like Bernadette Brown, Roisin Gallagher, Louise Matthews, Stella McCusker and Siobhan McSweeney.

At the heart of Nowhere Special, there’s a great film that has become obscured by some clunky characterisation and hackneyed dialogue. The cartoonlike inappropriateness of some of the potential adoptive families is disappointing. In particular, the last couple, Lorraine and Trevor (Niamh McGrady and Caolan Byrne), are painted as being so unfeeling and gormless that the stereotype stretches beyond breaking point into discomfort. In total contrast, one household John visits seems so perfect for Michael that it beggars belief that no positive comment is made and the search moves on beyond that point. Having so carefully allowed John’s condition to be revealed over time, later moments needlessly paint words on top of what the audience already understands.

Yet Nowhere Special recovers and behind me in the mid-afternoon screening I could hear other audience members gurning their lamps out too as John finally made preparations for Michael’s future life without him, the only major moment of sentimentality that Pasolini allows.

Nowhere Special is a film about love and death, inadequacy, kindness, preparedness and perspectives. Currently being screened at Queen’s Film Theatre, Omniplex cinemas and the Belfast Odeon.

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