Based on the award-winning play ‘Trade’ by Mark O’Halloran, this drama, set in the Rialto suburb of Dublin, chronicles the disintegration of a middle-aged man’s existence, starting with the death of his father and not improving at any point thereafter. While the drama unfolding is extremely bleak, and not always easy to watch, director Peter Mackie Burns coaxes some outstanding performances out of lead actor Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Ebony Maw in the Avengers films) and his long-suffering wife, played by Monica Dolan (many TV series, from Black Mirror to Alan Partridge), as well as the rest of the cast. As @spicer noted earlier, the relative briefness of the film means you’re never completely overwhelmed by the inevitable grimness of the story.
Selected for the official competition of the London Film Festival, this film harks back to the dark days of 1980s apartheid, and in particularly the indoctrination of white adolescent conscripts for the South African border forces. Director Oliver Hermanus does not shy away from showing the brutal environment, and the language and violence that the youngsters are being subjected to can only be described as extremely shocking and disgusting. This is in sharp contrast to the rather glorious scenery of the South African outback where the exercises, and later border patrols, take place. The director clearly pays tribute to some other films about military training, notably Full Metal Jacket, Beau Travail and Top Gun (volleyball!), even though he skirted around this accusation in the Q&A that followed the showing. That said, it is a fascinating film tackling a difficult subject, and it should be in contention for the big prize (it won’t win though, all the money is on Honey Boy)