Following his release from prison, Jason tries to get his life back on track in the hard-hitting drama Penitent from director Brian Stynes.
With the likes of The Boxer, Michael Collins, The Wind that Shakes the Barley and In the Name of the Father to name a few, Ireland has produced many incredible and powerful dramas through the years. With a country that is rich in history, personality and identity; there is a basis for many more tales to told and be created within the Emerald Isles. Now, independent filmmaker Brian Stynes and writer/actor Michael Linehan have combined forces to create a low-budget and enthralling piece set in their homeland.
Jason Buckley (played by Michael Linehan) has been serving four years in prison for manslaughter – he accidentally killed a child in his car and was caught with a stash of marijuana that wasn’t actually his. Upon his release, Jason, who is diminutive in stature and easy prey for bullies and manipulators, finds it difficult to cope with the past tragedy and tries to get by. He finds a local job and reacquaints himself with some old friends alongside making a couple of new ones in the process. Yet still, his past returns to haunt him at every turn.
Penitent is a well-made movie that runs for just over seventy minutes. Of course, it’s not perfect and does suffer at times from audio (especially on a couple of exterior scenes) and a few camera issues but that is to be expected when created with a small crew. What it does have going for it, is an excellent story, great performances and a fantastic and bleak ending to sign-off with. It’s a wise choice by Stynes and Linehan to end the movie in such a way, after all, real-life isn’t all sunshine, rainbows and yellow-brick roads; it can be like a dangerous ocean forever battering a rock face until it erodes, breaks down and engulfed.
Linehan is believable as Jason and does well in bringing life to his (and Stynes’) creation. We, the audience, can’t help but feel sorry for this man who has obviously had a tough life, and that’s before the accident. We root for him throughout and can’t help but feel shocked and surprised by the time the end credits begin to roll. As stated, Linehan is surrounded by some very capable actors. There are no weak links in the cast at all.
Stynes has done a great job in creating an enthralling and hard-hitting drama with little money. Credit has to be given to all involved. They set out on a mission to create something that is both good and interesting and they certainly succeeded. Penitent will probably sweep up a few awards whilst on its festival journey and it will be well deserved.