In Belfast, Henry Stanfield (Roger Allam) is appointed as Truth Commissioner to find out just what happened to the hundreds of people that went missing during the Troubles. In trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter Emma (Jasmine Hyde), Stanfeld’s personal attention is drawn to the case of a teenage boy who went missing, and his family’s quest to find out what happened to him, and get his body home for burial.
Based on the novel of the same name by David Park, The Truth Commissioner takes a look at the goings on in Northern Ireland as it tries to come to terms with its past. The story is obviously inspired by real events, with many of the characters only a thin disguise away from being named as current politicians, but the trouble is that in trying to cover too much, and throw in a couple of conspiracies, The Truth Commissioner is spread just a little too thin.
Roger Allam leads the cast here as Harry Stanfield, the titular Truth Commissioner, and he brings a weight and solemnity to the role. Sean McGinley makes Francis Gilroy a former paramilitary turned politician with a lot to lose and Madeleine Mantock plays Stanfeild’s legal aide and confidant Laura. The rest of the cast features Barry Ward, Conleth Hill, Brid Brennan and Lia Williams.
The story, written for the screen by Eoin O’Callaghan tells the story of Northern Ireland as still being fraught with strife, as people turn to violence and intimidation to keep the events of the past hidden. In trying to make a political thriller about covering up the past as the government tries to bring it to light, the film gets caught up in family relationships, liaisons with call girls and the corruption of those put on the stand that what should be a clear and interesting story becomes tangled and messy.
Director Declan Reeks does what he can with the screenplay; the performances are strong for the most part, but in trying to make the film clear and coherent, too much is over explained, or not explained at all. On the positive side however, Northern Ireland looks great on screen – nice to see Northern Ireland not standing in for some other country or realm on screen for once – and it is a refreshing change to have a political film set in Belfast that is not set in the depths of the Troubles.
In all, The Truth Commissioner tries to spin a thriller based in reality but an overly complicated script and some unclear direction turn what could have been an engaging and thought provoking film into a bloated mess.