Monday, 1 March 2010


Synopsis: Slightly odd bloke looks for lost daughter in New York City. Goes a bit mad. Meets a mother and daughter. His time with the daughter helps with his trauma. A bit.

I'd seen Lodge Kerrigan's Claire Dolan some time ago and was left intrigued about this filmmaker. The two films have much in common - both are studies of people on the fringes of society struggling to exist and who both use children as catalysts to their attempted recovery/route back into society. Whereas Claire Dolan has a somewhat cold atmosphere with lots of architectural photography, Keane is a much closer look at one human being, almost at micro level. Both films also share a real sense of menace, of threatened violence and underlying chaos.

(In many scenes, Claire Dolan has a really similar feel to David Cronenberg's A History of Violence. There is something eerily stagey (not many extraneous characters or shots) and uncomfortable about the stories.)

Anyway, back to Keane. We never know for sure if the main character, William Keane (played by Brit actor Damian Lewis), actually had a daughter or what sort of mental illness he is suffering from. Some of the scenes are a little overdone (some lines delivered straight from the Ratso Rizzo school of shouting) for my tastes but overall the balance is about right.

A couple of scenes really stand out and bring together Keane's fears about what may or may not have happened in the past. He takes the daughter (Kira) to a McDonald's for dinner, goes to the bathroom and when he returns he has a moment looking at the young girl from afar. We can't be sure what he's thinking, but he's convinced that his daughter was abducted after he left her alone for too long, so at this point you wonder if he's testing himself or subconciously trying to replay the scene with a happier outcome. Whatever, this is a beautifully played scene that leaves you with more questions than answers.

The other scene that stands out is at the end, when he does finally get to replay the past by taking Kira to the bus station (without telling her mother) in which his daughter was originally abducted. He allows Kira to go and buy candy by herself and watches her for most of the time, letting her out of his sight for a short time before returning to where she is waiting for him. It's very tense as you are half expecting her to be kidnapped, becoming just as paranoid as Keane. The scene, and the film, end with him telling the girl that they're going back to her mother. It is at this point you think that he's finally been able to work through his demons/fears about the fate of his daughter.

Whether or not this film is about mental illness, it's an interesting look at how we all deal with past traumatic events. How is it that some people can pick up again very quickly, deal with trauma and move on when many of us cannot let go of painful memories? Many times there is a need to replay past events over and over until there is some change or catalyst that then allows us to get past that scratch in the vinyl, get back into the groove and listen to the rest of the record.

See also: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Claire Dolan, Bunny Lake is Missing, The Lady Vanishes, Flight Plan, Taxi Driver, The Searchers.

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