29 Mar 2023

Review: Redemption of a Rogue

From At The Movies, 7:30 pm on 29 March 2023

There’s a new Irish film in cinemas, coming on the back of quite a few others – The Quiet Girl, Aftersun and the high-profile Banshees of Inisherin.

Curiously, I’m told, Redemption of a Rogue was greeted more enthusiastically at home than any of them. Possibly because it’s more Irish than the rest.

Redemption of a Rogue opens as our leading character Jimmy – it’s a little much to call him “our hero” perhaps – returns home to the village of Ballylough, after seven years. 

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Photo: Screenshot

He’s back to see his brother Damien and his dying dad. There’s a touching deathbed scene.

Well, I say “touching”. Dad dies furious, but no matter.  Damien and Jimmy arrange the funeral on an appropriately wet, miserable afternoon.  

But there’s a snag – Dad’s lawyer arrives with bad news.

Dad’s will forbids a funeral if it’s raining. And the rain looks well established. In fact, it looks like it may never stop raining.  

This is a matter of concern, not just for the brothers but for the whole village.

This was clearly the original idea behind Redemption of a Rogue – what if a plague of Biblical proportions was to strike a village in the middle of Ireland?  

Because it’s not just a matter of rain. The children of Ballylough all stop talking. Next there’s likely to be disease, frogs, flies - the whole thing.

So where to from here? A story like this needs more than one narrator. Which is what it gets. There’s the actual narrator - Pat McCabe, who also doubles as a blues musician. 

And there’s the jokey radio DJ, played by writer-director Philip Doherty himself.  You get the idea that every expense has been spared in this little movie.

Jimmy pops down to the pub after a few days of no funeral and plenty of rain, to discover it’s been invaded by a whole lot of aging musicians from all over the country.  

What’s going on – is this some sort of parable or something?

You get the feeling that your man Philip Doherty and his loyal buddy Aaron Monaghan, who plays Jimmy, are making this up as they go along.

Still, that’s a time-honoured Irish method of storytelling, and at least it’s not boring. You wonder when the Church will make an appearance in the plot and I can assure you, you won’t be waiting long.  

Jimmy pops into a local church after a few drops of the hard stuff and is surprised when the Virgin Mary strikes up a conversation.

Say what you like about Redemption of a Rogue, you can’t deny it’s the first time you’ve heard Jesus’s Mother say the line “got any fags?”  

It’s about now that Jimmy runs into another significant character, the local loose woman Masha – short for Magdalene? - who offers her own redemption.

It’s a long, rambling, boozy tale, in other words – the sort of story you’d expect from the likes of other Irish storytellers like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Shane McGowan. 

At its heart is the blackest of comedy – Jimmy tends to pass out and dream of nooses –  cloaked in a drunken take on redemption.

But over that is another cloak of a typically Irish version of a likeable romantic comedy.

Would it help to be Irish to fully enjoy Redemption of a Rogue? I’d say it would be essential.

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