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Non-Review Review: Michael Inside

From writer and director Frank Berry, Michael Inside is harrowing, emotional and earnest look at cycles of incarceration affecting young Irish men from marginalised communities.

The plot of Michael Inside is fairly straightforward. As the title implies, the movie centres upon a young man named Michael who finds himself arrested in possession of drugs with a street value of two thousand euro. Receiving a custodial sentence, Michael finds himself incarcerated for three months. Michael must learn to navigate prison life, while his grandfather struggles to keep himself above ground on the outside. However, prison exerts a gravity, and escape is not as simple as release.

Inside, he’s dancing.

Michael Inside is an intense and claustrophobic experience. Asked early in the film if he suffers from any preexisting conditions, Michael responds, “Anxiety.” Shooting primarily in close-up with a hand-held camera, Michael Inside skillfully replicates that sensation. The characters constantly seem trapped and boxed in. Even before Michael is taken into custody, scenes are framed and blocked so as to suggest that he is trapped; the wire frame on crosswalks, the windows of the house, the bars of a fence. Michael Inside suggests that prison is more than just a physical construct.

Michael Inside is occasionally a little too earnest in its exploration of these vital and important themes, sometimes feeling more like an abstract civics lesson than an organic story. Still, there is no denying the raw emotional power of Michael Inside, particularly when director Frank Berry brings all the threads together at the climax of the story.

Everything, gone in a flash.

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