In the summer between school and university, Richard Karlsen (Jack Reynor), a teen rugby player who has a bright future in front of him, throws everything away in a reckless moment that has far reaching and devastating consequences.
Lenny Abrahamson has made a name for himself with hard-hitting and often uncomfortable films, such as Adam and Paul and Garage. What Richard Did follows on the path that Abrahamson has carved for his career; the film is filled with quiet but human moments that reinforce the story.
Jack Reynor is having quite the year, not only does he star in What Richard Did as the title character, but he also had a smaller role in Kirsten Sheridan’s Dollhouse. Reynor plays the role incredibly well, he allows the world to revolve around him, but never appears to be arrogant or to take anything for granted, it is only when everything begins to fall away that he realises what he is losing. Reynor is the backbone of the film and definitely a rising talent.
The rest of the cast is made up of Roisin Murphy as Lana, the girl who sets the entire conflict in motion, Lorraine Pilkington as Richard’s mother, and Lars Mikkelsen as Richard’s father. Mikkelsen is arguably best known from the TV show The Killing, and he creates a warm and gentle character who tries his best to come to terms with an act that he abhors.
Writer Malcolm Campbell borrows from the high profile case of a teen who was killed outside a Dublin nightclub for the story of What Richard Did, and this brings a level of familiarity to the film… For Irish audiences anyway. Director Lenny Abrahamson has made a career out of taking a look at the underbelly of society and dwelling on the outcasts and those who do not fit the ‘norm’. Not only does What Richard Did focus on a different side of Dublin to Adam and Paul, it examines the consequences of a rash moment, consequences that reach further than those immediately affected. Abrahamson directs his cast with a light touch, and leaves the film open to interpretation and discussion. The problem with the film is that it takes over an hour to get where it has going, and this drawn out opening means that the pace of the film suffers throughout. As well as this, the ambiguous and open ending may leave some audience members frustrated.
In all, What Richard Did is a quiet look at a loud and devastating event, and the moments in our lives in which everything changes. The acting is strong and the directing light, but the film suffers from pacing that is as messy as the subject matter it examines.