Film Review: Parked

My nominee for the saddest film of the year.

It’s mighty damp and cold in the Dublin parking lot which is home to Fred (Colm Meaney), a recent returnee to his native Ireland, ensconced as he is in his cluttered car. Having slipped through the cracks of a dole-allotting bureaucracy, he awaits legitimate housing, while bathing in public toilets and desperately trying to conceal his homelessness. He encounters a similarly displaced soul, Cathal (Colin Morgan), a young drug addict, also living in his ride, and the two strike up the unlikeliest of friendships. They swim together at a public pool, where Juliana (Milka Ahlroth), a piano teacher fond of water aerobics, has attracted Fred‘s eye, although he is too embarrassed to approach her, given his pathetic situation. Cathal tries to encourage his shy friend to seize the day.

The veteran Meaney (The Commitments, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) has always been a solidly appealing actor and easily gains your sympathy here as Fred, in his unending struggle to maintain some sort of human dignity in such adversity. But what trials he is put through by Ciaran Creagh’s unrelentingly grim rookie screenplay! They are, however, nothing compared to Cathal’s tortured travails. Admittedly, these are mostly brought on by himself and his addiction, being forever in debt to some particularly unpleasant, thuggish dealers. He lies to his buddy about the nature of his using, and when Fred discovers him shooting up, their relationship ends, foretelling yet more gloom and doom for the hapless Cathal at the hands of his creditors.

Debut director Darragh Byrne unfortunately doesn’t do much to lighten the mood of this rather thin and depressing story, seemingly besotted by its very sadness, which he may have mistaken for true depth. Morgan manages to be touching, completely brutalized and covered in blood as he eventually is, and Ahlroth has an earthy charm which offers some small respite from all the woefulness. Niall Byrne’s winsome music score is a definite asset.