EIFF 2015 – The Messenger
David Blair’s The Messenger forces Jack (Robert Sheehan) to channel his inner Haley Joel Osmont as he is haunted by the ghosts of the recent deceased who call upon him to carry out unfinished business on their behalf.
My comparisons to The Sixth Sense will end there as this is actually a very different film in a lot of ways. The focus here is on Jack rather than the ghosts that haunt him and the favours he does for them are almost incidental in the exploration of his character.
This film has a really promising setup with strong performances from the lead actors. Sheehan is very convincing as someone who has been living with this “gift” for a long time and has been driven almost insane by it. Much of the film spends time showing how continued exposure to the whims of dead people can take a toll on the psyche. As a result Jack’s life is a complete mess. He lives in a really rundown flat, doesn’t sleep well, drinks heavily and has everyone around him assume that he’s crazy. It’s hard to imagine not thinking he’s crazy as from their point of view he sits around talking to himself and pauses waiting for replies.
Sheehan plays Jack as constantly on edge and strung out. He has no patience for the living or the dead but has an innate sense of goodness that makes him do what he considers the right thing. He is reluctant to do so but feels compelled to carry it out. I get the impression that there’s more to it than getting the ghosts off his case.
His back story is filled in via flashbacks depicting a troubled childhood where his father (Andrew Tiernan) killed himself and his relationship with his mother (Deirdre O’Kane) was always a difficult one. We see his ability manifest itself in these flashbacks and are supplied with the context of how long he has lived with this burden. In terms of character drama this film does a great job establishing Jack and making him sympathetic.
The supporting cast are a mixed bag with the strongest being Tamzin Merchant’s Sarah. She is the widow of a man that Jack is compelled to help. She goes through the predictable emotional beats of mistrust and acceptance of the truth but there’s a darker edge to her being left behind that I won’t spoil. I found the way this ends to be tragic and a little overdramatic but it helps get the point that death isn’t easy on those left behind across.
This acts as something of the central theme as Jack is having a tough time dealing with all of the tragedies that he becomes part of and Sarah is incapable of handling the death of her husband. It’s also interesting to see the perspective of the ghosts who want to bring closure to their loved ones but are unable to act on it without the help of Jack. There’s no malice in the way he is asked for help either. The ghost of Mark (Jack Fox) provides the clearest example of this as he is calm and collected about the whole thing with a genuine desire to get a message to his wife so that she can move on. He isn’t demanding of Jack but is forceful about how important this is to him.
I’ve mentioned that this film can be overdramatic at times and it definitely has a tendency to beat the audience over the head with the overall melancholy. I get that it’s a depressing subject but it’s a little too much some of the time. I also couldn’t help but think that Jack could clear all of this up by simply asking the ghosts for information that only their loved ones would know so that it could be quickly proven that there’s no other way he could know anything. I wasn’t looking for him to become a murder solving ghost whisperer or anything but it did cross my mind.
I’d definitely recommend this one as it’s a solid story with good characters that are well performed by the actors involved. Beyond a tendency to be overdramatic some of the time it is a solid character piece for the most part.
A solid film with a good story and well realised characters with impressive actor performances bringing the whole thing to life.
At times the film has a tendency to be a little overdramatic but on the whole it works well. The character of Jack is a great focus for the film as he is developed so well. I liked the angle of seeing when the ability started and giving the context of how long he has lived with it. Robert Sheehan does a good job of portraying him as constantly on edge due to the burden he has on his shoulders.
The story focuses on him trying to comfort a grieving widow with a message from her dead husband. It becomes more complex than that when a secret comes out which adds some depth to the whole thing. It’s handled really well and develops the theme of life being difficult for those who have suffered losses well.
This is definitely worth checking out barring some issues concerning beating the audience over the head with the message as well as some uneven performances from the supporting cast. Definitely an entertaining if depressing film.