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Parked:Opening Film of the Fleadh

Director: Darragh Byrne
Cast: Colm Meaney, Colin Morgan, Milka Ahlroth, Stuart Graham.
Review by Sue Murphy
Receiving its Irish premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh, Parked, the debut feature from Darragh Byrne, was a wonderful way of opening the Fleadh.  Unlike the other Film Festivals in Ireland, the Galway Film Fleadh are arguably some of the greatest supporters of the director’s first feature and with this in mind, one of the finest first Irish features opened the 23rd Fleadh.  Last night, Darragh Byrne introduced the film with his producers on stage, following an uplifting speech by Michael D. Higgins and there has been a certain amount of expectation around the film following its success on the festival circuit abroad.

Parked follows the story of Fred, a middle-aged guy, down on his luck after returning from England, who lives in his car.  Living a solitary life, he becomes wary when a young dope smoking 21-year old named Cathal invades his car park.  With no one in his life, and seemingly no one to care about him, Cathal begins to forge a relationship with Fred out of lonliness, and at times it would seem, boredom.  Fred becomes Cathal’s project, determined to sort his life out, he accompanies him on his disastrous visit to the Social Welfare office and attempts to help him continue to see Jules, a woman Fred has bumped into in their local haunt, the swimming centre.  However, as much as Cathal helps Fred discover some of his long-lost self-confidence, he is completely unable to help himself.  His drug problem continues to spin out of control, and within frequent violent visits to their car park from various no-goods whom he has fallen in with, Fred becomes overly concerned for Cathal’s welfare.

Beginning slowly and building momentum, Parked seeks to display the complete isolation that Fred lives in, his routines perhaps the one thing that is holding his sanity together.  Colm Meaney gives an exceptional performance as Fred, who despite the various difficult situations he finds himself in, never fails to lose his humanity, or indeed his good humour.  However, the stand out performance is Colin Morgan as Cathal, who will actually break your heart.  Although 21 and what we would consider an adult, Morgan’s character comes across as a lost child whose life continues to spiral out of his control.  Fred becomes his rock, even though it would seem that he depends on Cathal more than vice versa.  This relationship becomes more than touching and their final escapade will bring a tear to the eye.  Despite the sombre nature of the story, comedic scenes are peppered throughout, particularly their visit to Jules house to have tea.  Touching, sad and often hilariously funny, Parked is another one of the Irish features of late that continue to keep up our amazing reputation abroad.

Darragh Byrne’s first feature, let’s hope for many more.

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