Friday, April 26, 2019

The Dig – a community digging themselves into and out of an early grave (Movie House and QFT)

Moe Dunford plays Callahan, a prisoner who has served his time and returns to his family homestead. He lets himself into the rundown rural property (which has a particularly grim shower). First thing he does is drain the booze down the sink: alcohol is no longer part of his life. And for the first seven minutes he says nothing while we watch an old man out the window, digging holes across the bog.

In The Dig, Emily Taaffe plays Roberta, the surviving daughter of Sean (Lorcan Cranitch) who has been creating molehills on the peat bog for the last 15 years searching for his missing daughter Niamh, her disappearance blamed on Callahan.

The futility of excavating to find a body has huge resonance on this island, with the ongoing searches for the Disappeared, requiring sporadic digs as new evidence comes to light. Yet The Dig is not connected with the Troubles.

Roberta has given up her life to keep her father alive, feeding him as he relentlessly digs up the bog with a shovel. Emily plays her pained and drained. Francis Magee plays the tough, vindictive local cop Murphy who dispenses justice with a firm hand and a punch or two.

Alumni of Cinemagic and with the support of Northern Ireland Screen, Andy and Ryan Tohill have graduated from shorts to The Dig, their first feature. There’s some great non-verbal storytelling. The cinematography has beautiful framing, making desolate Ballymena farmland (Slemish appears on horizon occasionally) feel even more bleak and wintery that it must have been during filming. James Everett’s music makes good use of distressed strings.

With such a small cast, the plot twist near the end isn’t such a surprise: there’s so little dialogue you have plenty of time to ponder how the screenplay is going to develop. But the gradual revelation that practically everyone in this small community is digging themselves into an early grave is beautifully constructed and executed.

Moody, bleak, and while totally un-uplifting, The Dig is a great way to take your mind off current affairs and sink into some gritty performances, inhospitable landscapes and the gradual revelation of the story.

The Dig is now playing in the Queen’s Film Theatre and Movie House cinemas.

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