The Messenger (2015)
The dead have come calling”
The Messenger (2015)
Director: David Blair
Cast: Robert Sheehan, Joely Richardson, David O’Hara
Synopsis: A troubled young man is visited by the recently deceased who have a message to pass on to their loved ones.
There probably isn’t a comedy movie made that couldn’t, with a few judicious tweaks, be turned into the darkest of dramas. The Messenger, a bleak, downbeat independent movie from David Blair, is nothing more than a straight riff on Ghost, with tortured Robert Sheehan (Cherrybomb, Demons Never Die) standing in for a sassy black woman. However, Jack is no fake medium; he’s a troubled young man who, since the death of his beloved father when he was a young boy, has been able to see the recently deceased. It’s not all dead people who make contact with him, though, just those who have a compelling message to pass on to their loved ones.
Mark Lewis (Jack Fox) is a TV news reporter who was on the brink of uncovering the kind of scandal that can topple governments when he met his untimely death. The implication is that Lewis was targeted by those who stood to lose most from the scandal being exposed but, as with a number of other plot strands, screenwriter Andrew Kirk chooses not to pursue the reasons for – or identify the architects of – Lewis’s death, simply because it has no bearing on the film’s main plot. Now, every sub-plot in a movie needs to be satisfactorily concluded, unlike the plots of the TV soap in which Kirk has served his apprenticeship, but it’s noticeable that no less than three of The Messenger’s sub-plots remain unresolved by the time the end credits roll.
The film is much stronger when it comes to exploring the psychological duress on Jack and those closest to him, although the repeated, symbolical shots of him running from the camera as he talks about his torment quickly grow tiresome. The strain of being a conduit for the dead is compounded by Jack’s artless methods of conveying their messages to the living. More often than not his ham-fisted approach results in a beating, and you have to wonder why the dead would be so desperate to use someone whose methods cause the bereaved more pain than solace. Jack doesn’t even obtain from the deceased a piece of information known only to them and the bereaved to authenticate his claim to be a messenger for the dead.
While the sincerity of Blair and Kirk is beyond doubt, it’s equally apparent that they’ve failed to craft a satisfying movie from an idea which is rich in potential. Too much of the plot relies on soap-opera melodramatics and outlandish coincidence. Interweaving the main plot with numerous flashbacks from Jack’s childhood – which look as if they’re set in the 1970s or early ‘80s even though Jack is only in his mid-twenties – serves as more of a distraction than a back-story. It’s not all negative, though: talented young Irish actor Sheehan gives a heartfelt performance as the tormented Jack, and is supported by an able cast, while Blair makes good use of grimy urban locations to complement the bleak tone of the film. Nevertheless, The Messenger can’t overcome a nagging feeling of incompleteness, as if it was shot from a rough draft of a script that had potential.
(Reviewed 18th November 2015)