One Hundred Mornings has an intriguing opening. A thirtysomething guy, whose name we eventually learn is Jonathan (Ciarán McMenamin), walks out onto the porch of a reasonably well-kept cabin that’s in the middle of what appears to be rather picturesque country. Jonathan smokes a cigarette, potentially savoring the country morning as any person might, and walks over to the driveway and opens a car door. He tries the radio inside, which doesn’t work, sighs and closes the door and returns to the inside of the cabin. Jonathan is clearly a little pensive, a little disappointed, but above all, quite resigned, and so we can tell that this business with the car radio has become a daily ritual.
This low-budget Irish drama concerns a breakdown of society, and first time writer-director Conor Horgan has a nice eye and ear for disturbingly intimate little incidents that tell us more than any series of expository speeches could ever hope to. We’re never given the source of the breakdown, but we’re able to gather—with the title as an especially helpful hint—that this societal collapse is quite recent and is, of course, rather unexpected and awfully inconvenient. The setting is somewhere in the country near Dublin (we’re told at one point that that city is a somewhat walkable distance away), and there seems to be, from what we can tell, no damage to the actual environment. But electricity no longer exists and food and medicine is dwindling, which inevitably leads to the survivors going tribal, as they say. In addition to Jonathan, there’s his wife Hannah (Alex Reid), and another younger couple Mark (Rory Keenan) and Katie (Kelly Campbell). The men are reliable and given to uttering few words, while the women are rather dishy in a believable everyday way. Nerves are beginning to fray though, and a recent infidelity threatens to accelerate the deterioration of the already-strained relations between the foursome, who’re basically trapped in the cabin.
The world has ended so many times in cinema that it’s hard for a filmmaker to really shock us anymore. Horgan’s somewhat novel hook is the time period in which he chooses to set One Hundred Mornings. While most films concern either the race to stop the end of the world or the ultra barbarous wasteland that awaits us hundreds of years in the future, Horgan instead concentrates on a society’s transitional phase from unchallenged civility to survival-of-the-fittest amorality. Horgan, refreshingly, doesn’t push the material in our faces: He favors a number of medium shots with precise but not too fussy blocking that reveals the shifting dynamics of the foursome with confidence and precision. This film, which can’t afford to blow cities up for our amusement, trades in minute details that slowly add up to something rather disturbing. One image in particular—of a female character being taken by carriage to the nearby village so as to almost certainly serve out her life as a prostitute—has the primal power of a fairy tale. (The performances are also every bit as sturdy and believable as the pared, disciplined writing, and direction.)
The catch? There isn’t really much of one in this case, except that the conclusion of the film—like the conclusion to most films that trade on our fears of traditional society’s end—is inevitable to the point of being a little predictable, as a situation this dire leaves little room for spontaneity or even much character development or personality. Horgan is a talent to watch though; he appears to be a storyteller with instinct and maybe even a little elegance. Movies might need him.