Friday, November 30, 2012

Parked: Not a Traveler

Fred Daly’s car is nothing special, but it is still bigger than some Manhattan studios.  Still, it has to be death on his back to sleep there.  Unfortunately, the man has no choice.  Yet, the arrival of an irresponsible new neighbor in his car-park might spur him to make some changes in Darragh Byrne’s Parked (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

Daly is not a bad guy, but he is reserved and stand-offish.  In contrast, Cathal O’Regan is a friendly, outgoing junkie.  Before long, he has Daly attending water aerobics at the local sports center and stepping up his efforts to get relief (he has no permanent address, which is a major hang-up for Irish welfare agencies).  He is also haltingly pursuing Jules, a middle-aged Finnish expat music teacher and choir director.  Both shy and proud, Daly is a bit reluctant to admit to her he lives in a car-park (as they call them in the UK).  However, efforts to publicize his predicament may force his hand.  Meanwhile, happy-go-lucky O’Regan is self-destructing like the heroin addict he is.

A triumph-over-adversity film about a man trying to get on the dole would have to be an Irish-Scandinavian co-production, which indeed Parked is.  Still, it is an appealingly straight forward and understated portrayal of redemption, without a lot of phony sentiment gumming up the works.  In fact, it is a great star vehicle for Colm Meaney.  While he has made a career out of playing grouchy Irishmen, Daly’s dignity and vulnerability elevates him well beyond a traditional stock character.  Shrewdly, Parked implies much about his history but reveals little.

Meaney is nicely complimented by a small but effective ensemble.  As O’Regan, Colin Morgan is tragically convincing both turning on the charm and depicting the twitchy reality of addiction.  Stuart Graham also wisely resists false theatrics as O’Regan’s exhausted father in his limited but memorable scenes.  However, Milka Ahlroth is a bit underwhelming as Daly’s potential love interest.

Parked is a modest film with a straight-off-the-shelf consumer digital camera look.  Nevertheless, it features an impressive lead performance from Meaney and even presents religion in a positive light.  Balancing heart and street smarts, Parked is recommended for fans of Irish cinema when it opens today (11/30) in New York at the Cinema Village.