If nothing else, Patrick’s Day will certainly stay with you for a long time. It’s an unsettling journey down the dark hallway of mental health issues, but it’s a journey definitely worth taking. It looms over you like a dark shadow, a feeling that never quite goes away even after viewing.
We follow Patrick, a 26 year old schizophrenic born on Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s a film that very quickly establishes the dark tone that perseveres throughout. Within the first few minutes we see Patrick become separated from his mother at a funfair and awkwardly end up in the arms of troubled air hostess Karen. With the help of his browbeaten mother, we watch helplessly as Patrick and Karen strike up a relationship that never quite knows how far it can go.
It’s a testament to the fantastic writing that, despite everything that happens, we are never given a hero or a villain. There are no black and white characters in Patrick’s Day, we’re simply left to make up our own minds – something it seems filmmakers are loathe to do nowadays. The heartbreaking thing is that all the characters are trying to do the right thing. They all believe they know what’s best for Patrick and it makes you wonder whether our emotions can sometimes get in the way of doing what’s right. Is the driving force of love blinding Patrick’s mother to his real needs? Is it selfish of Karen to grasp at the one good thing in her life? Writer Terry McMahon makes you think about what you would do in these situations, and would it necessarily be the right thing? Can there ever be a right thing when it comes to a person’s sanity?
It would have been very easy to make this into a simple, triumph-over-the-odds, feel-good film. To make the characters one-dimensional and see-through, but instead we have been gifted a film that doesn’t shy away from the tough decisions families face every day when dealing with mental health.
Moe Dunford is the actor tasked with bringing humanity to Patrick, and quite simply, his performance is stunning. It’s a very physical performance too, showing that subtlety and faint gestures can reveal so much about a character. A special mention must also go to Philip Jackson who plays policeman John Freeman. A role so darkly humorous that you can’t help but crack a guilty smile from time to time.
The biggest shame is that for whatever reason, Patrick’s Day doesn’t seem to have as much publicity as other big Irish films of recent years. Perhaps it doesn’t have the all-star casts that The Guard or Calvary had, and you wonder just how much that has played a part. Or perhaps the dark subject matter doesn’t fit quite so well in the mainstream media? Either way, Patrick’s Day is a giant of a film. It doesn’t hold your hand down this dark hallway, and that’s what makes it so special. One of the best Irish films of the last decade.