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Non-Review Review: Calm With Horses

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2020. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

Calm With Horses is a solid, atmospheric crime drama.

There are very few surprises in Nick Rowland’s West of Ireland gangster film. The plot is fairly straightforward, focusing on a muscle-bound enforced for a local crime family who finds himself torn between the man that he wants to be and the tool that his employers see him to be. There are familiar dreams of escape, and those inevitable consequences that ripple outwards from a single morally-justified-but-strategically-stupid decision towards inevitable disaster. Thematically, Calm With Horses belongs to that familiar genre of violent men trying to live with their violence. Even the metaphors are familiar.

That said, Calm With Horses benefits from strong execution. The film received funding as part of the WRAP initiative, encouraging film production on the western coast of the island. Rowland skillfully leverages the film’s location work in Clare and Galway, providing his moody character study with a rich sense of atmosphere. In its strongest moments, Calm With Horses taps into a lingering melancholy that suggests a desolation extending beyond the rugged rural landscapes. There is a sense that these characters are as stark and haunted as the landscapes that they wander.

Calm With Horses doesn’t really offer any new twists on a familiar genre, but elevates its familiar trappings through the execution.

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