Calm with Horses – Hopelessness and Despair

REVIEW/NATION
by Albina Akhatova
03.05.2021
Calm With Horses (2019), nominated for quite many BAFTA awards, tells the story of Douglas 'Arm' Armstrong from the Irish countryside. Once he was a promising boxer, but he had no money or a decent mentor to expose his talent and show the right life direction, so he began working for a drug dealers mafia — the Devers family. At the same time, Douglas has a wife, Ursula, and an autistic child, Jack, whom his mother wants to send to a specialized school in another city. As in the case of the Broken Law (2020), Calm with Horses was shot by the debut director Nick Rowland, who chose for his first film a well-studied and popular topic of crime in Irish cinema. Referencing Broken Law, Calm with Horses also brings up the issue of family values, but, unlike Paddy Slattery, Rowland got a more celebrity cast: Cosmo Jarvis, Barry Keoghan, Ned Dennehy, who break into the deep soul of the viewer, forcing them to experience controversial emotions, as in the case of the German film Das Vorspiel (2019).
The main topic of the movie is the family issue. Who becomes a real relative for a person — a man by blood or by deeds? How formal is the family institution? What should it contain? For the "twining" family of drug dealers, which keeps a small Irish town in fear, family's belonging is defined by blind loyalty so the slightest insubordination or mistake is punished by death or cruel punishment. For the "biological" Douglas' family, to be a relative means to help and accept each other with all the fails and misses, both physical and in life, to be patient and tolerant. But the social and moral hopelessness decide otherwise.
BAFTA nominations went to supporting actors Niamh Algar as Ursula and Barry Keoghan as the young mafia heir Dymphna, unfairly ignoring the lead actor Cosmo Jarvis. Douglas gets the nickname 'Arm' like his last name, but those who give him this moniker cut off his main features — his strength and will, leaving only a weak-willed "arm," that does the dirty work and is up to the elbows in blood. The viewer cannot help but sympathize with the man who is attached to this terrible gang of murderers and criminals and lives in their toxic environment, Therefore, it is difficult not to feel annoyed at the lack of his free agency. Yes, there is only one reason to leave the family — death, and Douglas is not smart enough to become a smart consigliere. But there is always a choice of how to make money. Anyway, the viewer is so compassionate to Douglas because of the frankpledge that binds him, the inability to raise a son and live in peace, where there is no blood, threats or humiliations. And all of it — Jarvis has in his amazing game. He creates an image of a patient and obeying big guy without his own mind, annoying and pitiful at the same time.

The screen tandem of Jarvis-Keoghan in the Douglas-Dymphna duet is based on the "servant-master" model and repeats such well-known destructive pairs as Miranda-Nigel in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). Douglas is assigned to Dymphna as an aide, having fun and having fun with him, doing dirty things and solving problems. Dymphna, when he needs it, assures Douglas that he is his brother, relative, etc., but does not hesitate to humiliate him or refuse to help. Barry Keoghan in this role looks just great. It should be noted that playing unpleasant and strange characters becomes his part — perhaps largely because of his specific appearance. Though the role of the spoiled little major he yet has not had in the filmography. But this image also rhymes with Martin from The Killing of the Sacred Deer (2017), who also blackmails the main character's family on a whim of his own. But Keoghan's "specific appearance" in this role goes to the very last plan — even the highlighted hair — pushing forward the duplicity, greed and selfishness of his character.
Calm with Horses is based on a tragic plot: from harmony to chaos, in which the protagonist loses everything he has, step by step. However, the inevitability and despair that the finale is filled with are diluted by a sketch about the departure of Ursula and Jack as a hope for a good and prosperous life that Douglas could not live. This scene, like a light at the end of a tunnel, illuminates a gloomy picture, preventing it from turning into an Irish analogue of a typical hopeless Balabanov film.
 
Calm with Horses – Hopelessness and Despair

REVIEW/NATION
by Albina Akhatova
03.05.2021
Calm With Horses (2019), nominated for quite many BAFTA awards, tells the story of Douglas 'Arm' Armstrong from the Irish countryside. Once he was a promising boxer, but he had no money or a decent mentor to expose his talent and show the right life direction, so he began working for a drug dealers mafia — the Devers family. At the same time, Douglas has a wife, Ursula, and an autistic child, Jack, whom his mother wants to send to a specialized school in another city. As in the case of the Broken Law (2020), Calm with Horses was shot by the debut director Nick Rowland, who chose for his first film a well-studied and popular topic of crime in Irish cinema. Referencing Broken Law, Calm with Horses also brings up the issue of family values, but, unlike Paddy Slattery, Rowland got a more celebrity cast: Cosmo Jarvis, Barry Keoghan, Ned Dennehy, who break into the deep soul of the viewer, forcing them to experience controversial emotions, as in the case of the German film Das Vorspiel (2019).
The main topic of the movie is the family issue. Who becomes a real relative for a person — a man by blood or by deeds? How formal is the family institution? What should it contain? For the "twining" family of drug dealers, which keeps a small Irish town in fear, family's belonging is defined by blind loyalty so the slightest insubordination or mistake is punished by death or cruel punishment. For the "biological" Douglas' family, to be a relative means to help and accept each other with all the fails and misses, both physical and in life, to be patient and tolerant. But the social and moral hopelessness decide otherwise.
BAFTA nominations went to supporting actors Niamh Algar as Ursula and Barry Keoghan as the young mafia heir Dymphna, unfairly ignoring the lead actor Cosmo Jarvis. Douglas gets the nickname 'Arm' like his last name, but those who give him this moniker cut off his main features — his strength and will, leaving only a weak-willed "arm," that does the dirty work and is up to the elbows in blood. The viewer cannot help but sympathize with the man who is attached to this terrible gang of murderers and criminals and lives in their toxic environment, Therefore, it is difficult not to feel annoyed at the lack of his free agency. Yes, there is only one reason to leave the family — death, and Douglas is not smart enough to become a smart consigliere. But there is always a choice of how to make money. Anyway, the viewer is so compassionate to Douglas because of the frankpledge that binds him, the inability to raise a son and live in peace, where there is no blood, threats or humiliations. And all of it — Jarvis has in his amazing game. He creates an image of a patient and obeying big guy without his own mind, annoying and pitiful at the same time.

The screen tandem of Jarvis-Keoghan in the Douglas-Dymphna duet is based on the "servant-master" model and repeats such well-known destructive pairs as Miranda-Nigel in The Devil Wears Prada (2006). Douglas is assigned to Dymphna as an aide, having fun and having fun with him, doing dirty things and solving problems. Dymphna, when he needs it, assures Douglas that he is his brother, relative, etc., but does not hesitate to humiliate him or refuse to help. Barry Keoghan in this role looks just great. It should be noted that playing unpleasant and strange characters becomes his part — perhaps largely because of his specific appearance. Though the role of the spoiled little major he yet has not had in the filmography. But this image also rhymes with Martin from The Killing of the Sacred Deer (2017), who also blackmails the main character's family on a whim of his own. But Keoghan's "specific appearance" in this role goes to the very last plan — even the highlighted hair — pushing forward the duplicity, greed and selfishness of his character.
Calm with Horses is based on a tragic plot: from harmony to chaos, in which the protagonist loses everything he has, step by step. However, the inevitability and despair that the finale is filled with are diluted by a sketch about the departure of Ursula and Jack as a hope for a good and prosperous life that Douglas could not live. This scene, like a light at the end of a tunnel, illuminates a gloomy picture, preventing it from turning into an Irish analogue of a typical hopeless Balabanov film.
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