Reviewed by Rob Munday.
How much do you know about the man in the street and what does he know of himself?
Mister John is the second feature film from Christine Molloy and Joe Lawler and confirms the promise of their debut feature Helen. Like Helen the story concerns the fluid nature of identity and the unknowable in all of us.
Gerry (Aidan Gillen) travels to Singapore in the aftermath of his brother’s death. The death is unexplained and Gerry seems shell-shocked, going through the motions of fulfilling his family duties but never quite engaging. His brother owned an Irish bar that also acted as a place for men to meet prostitutes. The brother’s local wife now calls on Gerry to help her re-start the business and collect old debts. Gerry, a good but conflicted man, finds himself inexorably drifting into his brother’s world, a place very different to that which Gerry has left behind.
Aidan Gillen mesmerises as Gerry. For much of the film he says nothing and yet his face is constantly shifting, making his character not merely blank but fascinating. You feel for him while also questioning his motives and Gillen’s gripping performance lies at the heart of this films success.
The work of Molloy and Lawler is rigorous and subtle but always engaging. We feel drawn into this unfamiliar world with Gerry, entranced by its landscapes. Theirs is a poetic approach to storytelling, stripped down to allow room for atmosphere and character to breath. When it comes, the music is bold, stirring but never pompous. It bursts with emotion, becoming the outlet for Gerry’s internal conflicts. As the film progresses we get glimpses into Gerry’s home life and find ourselves twisted into his fate. Events fall in on each other, all details ring true. The film is a puzzle but not puzzling, enigmatic but never dull.
You may site Lynch, Antonioni, even Kubrick as influences here but Molloy and Lawler have created a world very much their own. This is a cinema of questions and Mister John is a film that demands attention.
Mister John is out on DVD now.