The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
Originally released as Calm with Horses in Europe but renamed The Shadow of Violence for its wider release, this debut feature from Ireland deserves all the praise it’s been receiving on the festival circuit.
This is an excellently crafted film, even more so for a debut feature. The Shadow of Violence director Nick Rowland isn’t afraid to linger in the quiet spaces of the film to quite literally hide in the shadows. The balance of calm to crazy, quiet to pulsating, is what gives the film such a realistic touch. He switches gears easily from family drama to gangster thriller and back again, never losing overall vision or the audience’s attention.
In the west of Ireland, ex-boxer Arm has found himself working as the enforcer for the drug-dealing Devers family. But when he’s asked to do the unthinkable, he starts to question his place in their world, and his place in the world of his 5 year old autistic son.
Whilst some might find the film slow to start, the plot is biding its time, carefully brewing until we reach the inevitable boiling point. Counter balancing the violence and drug elements with a nuanced look on parenting and living with developmental difficulties, it allows for us to take stock of the roles that rumour and loyalty play in people’s lives.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The film boasts brilliant performances from the whole cast, not least the two leads. Cosmo Jarvis as Arm has a quiet vulnerability beneath his tough guy exterior and says more with his silence than many say with words. Barry Keoghan, who many might recognise from Dunkirk, is transformed and vile. He reeks of a Napoleon complex, and small actions such as literally clicking Arm over to him like a trained guard dog only work to solidify hatred towards his character.
The film does belong to the two gents, but it would be remiss to not also highlight Niamh Algar as Ursula, mother to Arm’s young autistic son. She’s able to embody the tenderness the film relies on in its quieter moments and steals her scenes with her stoic desperation.
Be warned – the accents are strong. I come from an Irish family, so I didn’t struggle, but some might prefer subtitles.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Originally Released As CALM WITH HORSES In Europe
Use of colour, or in some cases lack of colour, is excellent. The area looks desolate and hopeless and only grows more so as each second passes. Subtle use of light and reliance on landscapes add to the realistic feel of the film. The beautiful imagery of horses throughout and the tiny little details make this feel like a masterpiece in indie film making.
The Shadow of Violence (2020) | VOD
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Composed by Blanck Mass, the score is atmospheric, slow, building, and perfectly timed. Working well as individual pieces of music, they’re able to bring to life the tension within the characters' relationships and help develop the slow burning dread throughout the run time.
On paper, The Shadow of Violence isn’t my normal kind of film. But I cannot recommend it more. It’s dark, moving, atmospheric, and heartfelt. Each element of the film is perfectly crafted, and each performer brings their absolute best to the table. This film is one to watch, and all involved should be added to your future stars lists.