JWR Articles: Film/DVD - 8.5 Hours (Director/Writer: Brian Lally) - August 23, 2012
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8.5 Hours

3.5 3.5
112 min.

One stupid thing after another

Everyone makes mistakes in life. We’ve all done something(s) we regret. Forgive and forget. “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

Set in Dublin just prior to the extraordinary Celtic Tiger collapsing into nation-threatening calamity, director/writer/producer/editor Brian Lally has crafted a film that brings four coworkers to the office one Monday morning and gradually reveals their collective back-story of relationship misery and “stupid” choices.

The economic boom has created sudden wealth (one condo moving from €200,000 to €900,000 in just a few years) and well-paying jobs, particularly in the lucrative software market. The thirtysomething crowd have never had it so good, but—like all young people who have had a relatively easy time of getting along in the world—are greedy for more. Who would want to lose precious hours before and after the prescribed 8.5 hour workday? For some, commuting is seen as a failure but—like present-day downtown Toronto—the price for even a basic, moderately upscale condo is prohibitive.

Marketing wizard Rachael (Lynette Callaghan goes just a touch over the top as the unrepentant blackmailer once she has some lurid cards to play) kicks off the proceedings by begging forgiveness after a drunken “mistake” earns the unforgiving wrath of her current beau. The sudden split leaves the party girl on her own to close the deal on a tony love nest by 5:30 p.m. Determined to get the digs she knows she deserves, Rachael bullies her manager (Martin gets a sympathetic portrayal of the unexpectedly ambushed administrator by Tom O’Sullivan) into an early performance review, but it’s €7,000 short of what she needs to swing the mortgage solo.

Also sharing the cubicle (the four employees sit two-by-two across from one another) is the group’s IT wizard. Frank (Art Kearns nails the raging outbursts, one of which involves an iron shot that Tiger Woods will readily identify with) has had an up-and-down weekend, winning his club’s golf tournament only to lose his best friend (Brendan McCormack) who instantly wears out his welcome when discovered in the deep rough, chipping away at Frank’s wife (Maeve McGowan). Like his colleagues, the key pieces of back-story are expertly woven into the cinematic fabric by Lally and Arthur Mulhern’s darkness-and-light-sensitive cinematography.

Perhaps the most complicated member of the team is just-in-time code writer, Eoin. He ought to be looking forward to that coming evening’s pow wow with his fiancée (Clodagh Reid, the symbol of willful blindness exuding unending light) and their wedding planner. Yet we learn that the baby face developer is still reeling from the effects of a long-past, pre-Lisa threesome (including Fred Ledoux who steals his few scenes as Simon, awakening the truth within all comers with humour and refreshing honesty—more, please). Sadly, inevitably, how he finally deals with that issue is precipitated by a torrid out-of-the-office management meeting and an opportunistic coffee break that leaves nothing in doubt.

Tony (an engagingly happy-go-lucky performance from Jonathan Byrne falters only when he is confronted by the madwoman—Geraldine Plunkett, not quite over-the-cuckoo’s nest enough—from his past) has to apologize for being late for the morning bell but even more so just a few minutes earlier when the rampant Don Juan gallantly offers to give his bedmate a different kind of ride, only to get the name wrong! Now why can’t such a slight slip as misnamed bedmate be instantly forgiven?

As the film works around the clock (with a carefully crafted synthetic score by Karim Elmahmoudi and always-welcome vocal interjections from Kristin Dyrud) it becomes clear that time has run out for everyone. Success—real or imagined; economic or social—was within everyone’s grasp until poor decisions and unacknowledged simmering truths burst onto the scene of entitlement. But compared to the financial (and related personal) turmoil ahead when the extra-greedy ran out of suckers with more credit than brains, this quartet of woe-is-me despair seems small beer indeed. JWR

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