Calm with Horses: Film Review

Calm with Horses

I wasn’t really sure if Calm with Horses would be my thing because I really dislike gritty, violent gang movies, and the opening of this – in which a man gets brutally beaten up – didn’t fill me with confidence. However, the lead character’s story is written well and I couldn’t help but become invested in him.

The film follows Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis), a former boxer who is friends with Dympna Dever (Barry Keoghan), a member of the Dever family, who are feared in their Irish hometown. Nobody wants to mess with the Devers – and if they do, they’ll probably have a nasty run-in with former boxer Arm. Arm starts to reconsider his position when he’s ordered to kill someone, while his ex-girlfriend Ursula (Niamh Algar) – with whom he shares troubled son Jack – tries to make him see that he’s better than that life.

Calm with Horses is a bleak, gritty and violent drama set in a poor, rundown town. I wasn’t sure if I would like a film that follows a rough and unforgiving set of people, but thankfully, you soon learn that Arm isn’t one of them – he fell into it without realising and wants to get out and do right by Ursula and their son. The scenes with them are the best because they provide a sense of light and hope and offer the possibility of redemption for Arm, and you can’t help but get invested in them eventually. You want him to escape and live a better life elsewhere with his family.

This connection is down to the writing but also Jarvis’ performance. He is totally convincing as a thug type who wants more for himself. He doesn’t talk much and internalises his feelings but we can still tell what he’s thinking. I also assumed Jarvis was Irish because his accent was so believable and I was shocked to learn he’s not. This film shows Irish star Keoghan in a completely new light. He plays such a nasty piece of work, who brutally beats up people for the sake of it, but is a complete coward when it comes to his uncles Hector (David Wilmot) and Paudi (Ned Dennehy), the true driving force behind the violence. I must admit I did struggle to understand the dialogue initially but I soon got used to it.

Calm with Horses was so much better than I expected it to be. The story isn’t the most original in the world but it feels fresh because of the setting, characters and performances, and the story builds and builds to an intense, exciting, and gripping third act.

In select cinemas from Friday 13th March 

Rating: 3/5

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