The Black Guelph Image

The Black Guelph

By Michael Talbot-Haynes | June 12, 2024

NOW ON VOD! The city baby is being eaten by rats of the human variety in the blacker-than-black Irish drama The Black Guelph. This striking feature debut by writer-director John Connors and co-written by Tiernan Williams focuses on the lives of the minority Irish Traveller community that the filmmaker is part of. The director takes us on a walk through a narcotic hellscape covered with flames of concrete. The vicious circles everyone runs in are revealed for all to see.

We first meet Kanto (Graham Earley) walking up the street to inform the audience he can procure any drug we might be looking for. He oversees a crew of street dealers who go back and forth, chucking drugs into open car windows all day long. He answers to Ryan (John Connors), but the local drug lord is running out of patience as Kanto still owes him money. Ryan is trying to get out of the game so he can get his wife Rachel (Lauren Larkin) to come back to him with their wee daughter.

Meanwhile, Beatrice (Denise McCormack) is starting to slip back into painkillers, much to the dismay of her son, college student Virgil (Tony Doyle). Kanto takes him under his wing while still feeding dope to Virgil’s mother. Meanwhile, Kanto’s long-missing junkie father, Dan (Paul Roe), is suddenly back in town. Dan is clean and is looking to speak with Kanto, who wants nothing to do with him.

“…oversees a crew of street dealers who go back and forth, chucking drugs into open car windows…”

The Black Guelph is as gritty as gritty can get. The dramatic crime thriller peels back the pavement to expose the grinding gears of ghettoization. This stark laser etching of the poverty maze architecture trapping Travellers makes this truly remarkable. One early moment of clarity is a bartender’s speech comparing dealers to a bucket of crabs, with the bottom crabs always pulling down those who are trying to get out. This is the kind of cinematic societal condemnation that reverberates for years. The second half reveals precisely who owns the bucket that is keeping the crabs in place. The drugs may be the bones in the skeleton of the underclass, but the muscles that move them come from much higher up.

Even by the lofty standards of drama, this movie has an amazing cast of smashing actors. Earley is a multifaceted talent who gives Kanto the appeal and complexity of a diamond. He is the most personable yet still unlikable anti-villain ever. His devilish ability to attract and simultaneously repel sets up the emotional motorcycle ramp to jump off during the climax. Larkin doesn’t take any crap from the start and keeps not taking it like a champ. The way the actor throws a look of permanent disappointment is devastating. McCormack is going to rip your heart right out of your chest to feed poor, hungry Doyle for dinner. I know there must be sad parts, but man, this pair brings the heavy down. Their mastery of emotional projection makes the despair raw and real. Connors plays the evil c**t with many dimensions that spiral deeper and deeper until you can never escape the shadowy folds.

The Black Guelph is an excellent dark journey down a dead-end street with a stark view of what looks over it all. The characterizations wisely distinguish between those who do wrong by circumstance versus the designs of those who create those circumstances. This packs the same punch that Boyz In The Hood did back in the day.

The Black Guelph (2024)

Directed: John Connors

Written: Tiernan Williams, John Connors

Starring: Graham Earley, Paul Roe, John Connors, Lauren Larkin, Denise McCormack, Tony Doyle, etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

The Black Guelph Image

"…packs the same punch that Boyz In The Hood did back in the day."

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