London Film Festival Review: The Young Offenders

Chris Walley’s Jock (left) and Alex Murphy’s Conor (right) in The Young Offenders

By Mark Hodge (doddleNEWS)

One of the great pleasures of attending film festivals is happening upon cinematic gems which you know absolutely nothing about. And for me, Irish buddy-comedy The Young Offenders was this year’s rough diamond in among the event’s more sophisticated offerings.

Based on the real-life story of the Republic of Ireland’s biggest ever drug seizure – a $440 million cocaine haul off the western coast of Cork in 2007 – The Young Offenders centres on two teenage tearaways who set out to find one of the missing bales of narcotics valued at $8 million.

The Young Offenders’ protagonist and narrator is Conor MacSweeney (Alex Murphy), who along with his best friend and endearing bike thief Jock (played by Chris Walley) embark on a road-trip determined to find the drugs and become multi-millionaires.

Both boys have a difficult home life, with Conor living and working with his tempestuous mum. However Jock’s situation, with his alcoholic single parent father, provides some of the darkest moments of the film. The lads are unashamed soul mates, with Conor even telling his mother that he is not gay, but if he was, Big Jock would be the man for him.

Writer/director Peter Foott manages to develop a community which is full of cartoon personalities – some of which are only peripheral characters in the story.

There is no mistaking that is a broad comedy, but while most American mainstream farces almost always disappoint (i.e nearly every Will Ferrell movie of the last 10 years), The Young Offenders has genuine characters who have real-life dysfunctional backgrounds. The movie has heart. The two leads aren’t just dim-witted clowns – they are loveable rogues who the audience roots for through out.

Their main antagonist comes in the form of a supercop played by actor Dominic MacHale – who is the Popeye Doyle of bicycle The Young Offenderstheft. And when Jock steals a bike with a police tracker on it – the determined officer pursues the teens on their adventure.

The comparisons between Foott’s film and the Farrelly brothers’ classic Dumb and Dumber (1994) are clearly evident. The main aim of the film is to make the audience laugh and in this regard it is a stunning success.

The other key relationship in the film is between Conor and his mum ,played by actress Hilary Rose. The portrayal of a flawed yet loving parent, who continually clashes with her offspring, is one of the pillars which holds the story together.

The young stars are talented and engaging… The task of making two hoodlums funny and appealing cannot be underestimated. Their performances along with Foott’s snappy and compact script are the two biggest reasons behind the film’s success. There a few moments when it seems the consistently hilarious picture is going to delve into darker territory only for Foott’s gloriously politically incorrect jokes to heroically bring the film back on track.

The crisp editing is of a high technical quality and there is no doubt that you are watching a feature film despite the movie’s modest budget. The soundtrack is brash and loud and suits the lead duo’s single-minded personalities.

The only criticism I would have of The Young Offenders was understanding all of the dialogue. Despite being a Celt myself (I’m Scottish with prominently southern Irish roots), I struggled to understand certain words. American audiences will no doubt benefit from subtitles.

The fact that director Foott wrote the screenplay and made the project on a small budget over one summer is quite frankly inspiring. Whether you are a comedy fan or not – if you are at all interested in filmmaking, I would highly recommend watching this movie.

Here’s the NSFW trailer for The Young Offenders:

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