Tony (producer Matthew Toman) addresses the screen, explaining to the viewer that he's a documentary filmmaker who's always on the lookout for interesting subjects. In particular, he's drawn towards people who haven't had things go so well in life.
Following an online appeal for fresh subjects, Tony has been contacted by young man K (Jason Sherlock) - a loose cannon who lives in a rundown flat on one of Dublin's rougher estates. Along with cameraman Jamie (Alan Rogers) and sound recorder Louise (Emma Dunlop), Tony sets off by car to meet K and film the first of a projected television series entitled "A Day in the Life Of".
The neighbourhood is unwelcoming, but Tony and his small crew seem somewhat more at ease upon meeting the affable K. He leads them into his flat and introduces them to his meathead pal Nathan (Darragh Moran), and then his demure girlfriend. A few moments later he takes Tony to a flat two doors down and ... introduces him to his other girlfriend! K certainly appears to be rogue, but a harmless one at that.
The tone shifts when Tony quizzes K about his upbringing. We learn that K's dad was a locally renowned criminal, respected and feared by many up until his death by shooting. K has since taken on his absent role to some extent, especially since the more recent murder of one of his brothers - something he still grieves over.
Following K and Nathan as they go about their business around the flats, Tony and friends quickly become aware of shady goings-on: K pinning a lad against a wall and demanding his "fooking money" for example. A rogue, certainly - and perhaps not such a harmless one after all.
A tad perturbed, our budding documentarians continue to follow K and Nathan, who promise "a nice little surprise" for their visitors. They take them to a lock-up, where they're introduced to K's big brother, the decidedly dubious Daz (Darren Travers) and a small group of miscreants including Goth chick Zoe (Zoe Kavanagh) who has a video camera of her own. Daz explains that, when they heard someone was going to make a documentary about K, they thought they'd help out and film events from another angle. They even have a buddy there to silently take photographs in the background.
Okay, things are getting a bit more weird now. Tony's visibly confused as K and his pals gather round to have their photos taken with the bemused filmmakers. Daz has an intense fire in his eyes when he speaks; his pal Terese (Shauna Ryan) is there too, and she's possibly even more off her rocker than he is.
Before they go any further, Daz suggests Tony sit with him and watch a film that he's recently stumbled across. Perplexed, Tony has little choice but to oblige as the others - including Jamie and Louise - also gather around to face the projection screen opposite them. And this is where things get really fucked up...
I 'm not divulging any more, because what happens next is not only the crux of the plot but also changes the audience's perception of everything. And, from that moment onwards, the film never lets up on the tension.
In fact, thanks to minimal exposition DON'T YOU RECOGNISE ME? gets tense really quickly and maintains an edgy atmosphere throughout. When Tony and pals first arrive outside K's apartment block, their uncertainty is palpable - the camera pixelates bystanders' faces to protect their identities but we still hear their subtly threatening hollers of "what you doing here?" and the like. Once inside K's small family flat, we share in Tony's sly glances to camera now and then indicating that his subjects are a little peculiar.
K is amiable enough from the start. Even Nathan, who has the look of a wrong 'un, likes a bit of a laugh and appears to enjoy being captured on Jamie's camera. But that tension is there - a vibe from the get-go telling us to expect something nasty before too long.
Once we're in the lock-up, there's no turning back. Daz is a scary presence, Terese is a nutter and suddenly even Nathan and K have an aura of menace about them. There's no overplaying here either; it's all achieved very naturally, almost inevitably.
Which brings me to the film's greatest asset: its performances. Writer-director Jason Figgis has always had a knack for eliciting great acting from his casts (see CHILDREN OF A DARKER DAWN and THE ECSTASY OF ISABEL MANN as evidence) and that remains true here. All of the cast are fantastically naturalistic from the very first frame onwards. Travers, Ryan and Sherlock impress the most but, really, everyone deserves credit here: I can't remember the last time I saw a cast work so well together. The relationships feel real, the anger and pain felt at key moments rings true, the dialogue - much of which I assume was improvised - persuades at every turn. There may not be much development to these characters but they soon become real and fleshed-out anyway, by sheer virtue of their banter and the performances which propel it.
Happily, it's not just the acting that's top-notch. The camerawork, though handheld and documentary-style is very good throughout - shot in HD, the film also benefits from being well-lit and tightly edited. Michael Richard Plowman's understated electronic score pulsates successfully, adding frissons as the situation becomes more claustrophobic for our protagonists.
Ultimately this is a revenge thriller. Without giving too much away, the second half escalates into a heady brew of cathartic violence and heartfelt mourning, as well as affording director Figgis a scary role as the masked Babyface and introducing Tony's brother, Frank (Mark Donaghy).
Although it could be argued that the plot is economic, DON'T YOU RECOGNISE ME? is still an intriguing film of two halves. The first half expertly builds the tension while skilfully creating a realistic world. Once we get a firm grasp on what's actually going on, the second half plays cleverly with our perceptions, while throwing up interesting moral conundrums and demystifying preconceived notions on certain types of people. It does all of this while remaining taut and violent (bone-crunchingly so - literally!), and while tackling themes of loss, pain, guilt, entitlement and more.
Intelligent, muscular, keenly shot, lean, brilliantly acted ... there's a lot to recommend here. DON'T YOU RECOGNISE ME? doesn't have a release date yet but rest assured we'll let you know when one comes. It's definitely worth keep your eyes peeled for this one!
Review by Stuart Willis
|Written and directed by Jason Figgis|