When I think of murder mysteries, Clue and Knives Out come to mind. The former stars the force of nature that is Tim Curry, amongst a stellar cast who all rapid-fire lines from a witty script, while the latter is fun in a different way. These two films are at the top of my list in the genre. A movie doesn’t have to follow their template to be enjoyable, though, and I’m glad that director/co-writer Brian Stynes and co-writer Mike O’Dowd went their own way with Coast Road.
The first half of the hour and seven minutes total runtime is spent with the audience as a fly on the wall for a bus trip off of the coast of West Ireland in 1996 (as told to us in voiceover by an older version of one of the characters). Cinematographer Philip Connelly includes some beautiful scenic shots, while the cast comes off as quite authentic and natural. So much so that there were times when I had difficulty deciphering the English being spoken with thick Irish accents, but that only added to the realism.
The second half becomes a murder mystery when a passenger on the bus is found dead. Was it from natural causes or something more sinister? The bus driver (Paul Broderick) starts to suspect the latter when he sees passengers seemingly whispering amongst each other.
“… a passenger on the bus is found dead.”
Coast Road is a tale of two films since the first half is light and conversational, while the second takes on a darker, more paranoid vibe. I enjoyed both because the cast, direction, and script were all interesting and believable. The upbeat, faster-paced Irish music at the beginning matches the tone, giving way to more of a tension-filled score by Mark McMillan in the second half. Much like the narrative, both were done well despite the completely different styles. I do wish that the movie had been a little longer in order to dig deeper into some of the characters, but as it is, the story moved along briskly.
Dave (played beautifully by Michael Linehan) is great as a mouthy, quick-witted hustler who reminded me a bit of Paul Scheer from The League. He is the star, with such a magnetic screen presence, despite his diminutive stature. Guys like him and Tom Cruise (in completely different ways) prove that height really doesn’t matter in cinema. Alison Glennie as Muriel is also superb with a more nuanced and subtle performance as a lonely character who likes to gossip at times.
Coast Road adds up to an enjoyable experience overall. The mystery itself won’t blow your mind, like some other entries in the genre, but it doesn’t have to. We as a culture are often too obsessed with things being “the best ever” when we should just enjoy them for what they are.
"…an enjoyable experience..."