Cork City residents hire a bus to take them on a tour of coastal roads, but when one of the passengers dies, the driver suspects the passengers of keeping secrets about the dead man. Here is Screen Critix review of Brian Stynes’ Coast Road.
Opening with some glorious drone shots of the beautiful West Ireland coast, Coast Road starts promisingly enough, showing us the lush greens and the blue sea of the Emerald Isle, but this great drone footage from Rory and Bryan Conlon soon gives way to the much simpler premise of watching passengers on a bus and their endearing, annoying, and sometimes frightening quirks.
The key to a lot of Irish films, be they comedy or drama, is the art of conversation. Coast Road is a 67-minute feature-length drama reminiscent of the darker side of Irish culture. The Irish seem to talk more than other people and they take more joy and sorrow from it. During Coast Road, there are times when characters have arguments simply for the sake of talking, and they do not always mind being overheard, mainly because they love an audience. Two passengers may be silent but add someone they don’t know at the other end of the bus, and they’ll start talking, putting on a subtle performance. We will meet a few different people throughout the film’s running time, and each one will have their moment; some are friends, a few are enemies, while others are couples going through a rough time, and young kids just trying to grow up quietly.
Coast road is full of subtle performances from its cast, the odious Shane (played by Paul J Coffey) is a foul-mouthed thug, Muriel is a lonely soul who likes to gossip with her friends, while Paul Broderick is the stoic bus driver trying to keep his head while all around people are losing theirs. As he begins to suspect the ulterior motives of his passengers, his paranoia starts to grow. However, it is Michael Linehan as Dave who strides across the film; he is an actor of rare talent who, despite his small stature, has an innate ability to command the screen whenever he is involved. The story is set in 1996 and is narrated to us in the present day by Killian who was twelve at the time and the youngest passenger during the events that unfolded.
The cinematography by Philip Connelly provides us with some memorable images, as each time the coach stops we are given some nice mid shots and establishing shots framing our characters in front of the beautiful and windy Irish environment. However, there is little he can do within the confines of a bus and, although he does his best to keep the camera moving, we are left with static shots of passengers talking to each other. The music by Mark McMillan is also a positive as it adds to the tension and despair felt by the characters as things begin to get on top of everyone. The only major issue we have with the film is that it is not particularly gripping.
Overall Coast Road is a nice little film that, with a few extra tweaks of the script, could have become the bus tour version of Murder On The Orient Express. As it stands, we get some tight direction from Stynes and some lovely performances from a cast of local Irish actors who all seem to work very well together.