The blarney isn’t the only thing that’s thick in writer-director Brad Gann’s Black Irish, a Boston-set coming-of-age drama about a teenage boy and his volatile relationship with his family. The performances are affecting, which is notable given that the film bests your average Desperate Housewives episode for the most number of melodramas crammed into the shortest period of time. There is the sister, Kathleen (Emily VanCamp), who is whisked away to a nunnery because she’s pregnant; the mother, Margaret (Melissa Leo), who should know better because she’s a social worker; the older brother, Jack (Tom Guiry), who peddles dope and torments everyone; and the father, Desmond (Brendan Gleeson), who keeps mum about the cancer that’s eating his insides. And that’s only the tip of a titanic iceberg that also includes 15-year-old Cole (Michael Angarano) leaving Catholic school because his parents are broke, removing his pants at the behest of his brother while waiting for the school bus, and killing the pet bird of the girl whose house he was forced to break into by Jack and his buddy. There is also the car accident that nearly kills Cole and Jack, the armed robbery at the Italian restaurant where Cole takes a part-time job, and Cole’s dramatic discovery that Desmond shines shoes in his spare time. If dogs could contract AIDS, then there would have been a scene where the family pooch gets his medication ground into his morning grub; instead, we are subjected to the cartoon scenario of Desmond luring the dog out of the house because the animal has taken way too kindly to one of his shoes (this is after Cole’s pet rabbit dies because the kid was too drunk to give the lagomorph its meds). Gann believes the only way to set this family on a path toward personal healing is to subject them to as much crisis as possible, and though there’s some richness to how Desmond’s past as a baseball player and marine effects his sons, the story never congeals into a particularly solid form, foundering on the reef of its cliché situations and colorless dialogue.
- Anywhere Road
- 92 min
- Brad Gann
- Brad Gann
- Brendan Gleeson, Michael Angarano, Tom Guiry, Emily VanCamp, Melissa Leo
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