Quiet desperation may be the English way, but the Scottish apparently require a little more noise and alcohol. Actor Peter Mullan (“My Name Is Joe”) makes his directorial debut with this story about a night to remember.
Mom’s dead and her funeral is tomorrow morning. She is survived by her four children: eldest Thomas (Gary Lewis), Michæl (Douglas Henshall), college student Joe (Stephen Cole) and the cerebral palsy-stricken Sheila (Rosemarie Stevenson). The group starts off this evening together with a small wake at a local pub. The night turns ugly with Thomas’ horrible, grief-stricken rendition of Air Supply’s “The Air That I Breathe” and even uglier when Michæl is stabbed in a fight with a heckler. He decides to not go to the hospital till morning so he can claim the injury as an industrial accident. Joe then storms off to wreak vengeance on the culprit with the help of a psychotic cousin. Sheila just wants to get away from Thomas. Now separated, the four must reunite in time for their mother’s funeral in the morning. What happens? Black comedy and emotional catharsis ensue.
This film isn’t so much funny as just plain nasty. I don’t think Mullan always realized there was even a line to cross. Damn. The funniest part of the movie are the subtitles for the thick Scottish accents which go to the trouble of translating the large amount of profanity into something a little more genteel. Somebody seems to have issues. There’s a clear enough lesson imparted: the kids’ little journeys of discovery teach them it’s okay to admit they needed their mother and okay to lean on each other for support. Each makes a stupid decision early in the evening that they’ll soon pay for. The problem here is that nearly every single person in town seems full of barely repressed rage. As the whole film is shot at night in a gritty, naturalistic style, the multiple acts of violence negate any comedy to be had. “After Hours” and “Mean Streets” are two separate Martin Scorsese movies. Don’t try to make both at the same time. Instead of funny and disturbing, you only get disturbing.