Small Engine Repair
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Niall Heery
with Iain Glen, Steven Mackintosh, Stuart Graham, Laurence Kinlan, Kathy Kiera Clarke, Gary Lydon, Tom Jordan Murphy, Charlene McKenna, David Pearse
release UK 7.Sep.07
06/Ireland 1h38

Male bonding: Mackintosh and Glen

glen mackintosh

London Film Fest

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Small Engine Repair With a strong country music score, a rural woodland setting and a central theme about muddled masculinity, this feels more like Oregon than Northern Ireland. The honesty in the script and the earthy, raw performances make it well worth seeing.

Doug (Glen) is having a rough time. He can't find a job in his logging community, his wife (Clarke) has thrown him out and his nemesis Burley (Graham) is just out of prison. He moves in with his pal Bill (Mackintosh), who's having problems of his own, as his son (Kinlan) no longer wants to work in the father-son mechanics shop anymore. With nothing left to lose, Doug finally gets the nerve to perform one of his songs at the local tavern, owned by their friend Eddy (Lydon).

The film's main point is that it takes time to heal and move on, a theme that strains the title metaphor but has resonance within the vivid characters. Heery's script is wonderfully detailed, with lively dialog and sparky situations. For most of the film we feel it could turn into either a horrific revenge thriller or a tragic melodrama at any moment. But the story is more subtle and meaningful than that. And it's gracefully filmed too.

Glen is especially good as a man who can barely get up in the mornings. We can see the lines of exhaustion in his face, scraggly beard and slumped physicality. And yet there's a glimmer of purpose in his eyes, and a true poetic sensibility in his songs. Mackintosh is also excellent as the far less-sympathetic Bill, a loser who simply doesn't have the ability to make a decent decision. And there's fine support from the surrounding cast, including Graham as the handsome but perhaps too-menacing bully.

The film's gently down-home vibe bristles with bitterness and disappointment. But it's also wryly hilarious and full of engaging interaction. These are men whose world has closed in around them and they no longer know who to turn to or trust. But they still need each other to survive. And even if all this hand-wringing is a little overwrought, this is a beautifully observed and especially well-acted little film.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 1.Nov.06 lff

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2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall