Onus: An erratic tale that fails to captivate
Belfast Film Festival
KIERAN Flynn, a teenager, wakes up to find himself chained to Mr Andrews, his school counsellor. The first half of Onus, a new film by Belfast director George Clarke, charts the strange unravelling of their situation, and its bloody apotheosis.
Ostensibly prodding a tentative finger at complex issues such as captor-captive psychology and the origins of psychotic violence, the first half of the film is filled with clunky, repetitive dialogue, and a narrative which seems a lazy excuse for genuine character development.
In part two, the focus switches to Kieran's mother, and the search for her son's killer. Again Clarke's pacing is erratic, with generic moodiness substituting for clearly motivated progression of the action.
The mother's grief is marked with skewed camera angles and lingering close-ups, but is too sketchily semaphored to be truly affecting.
Her identification of a prime suspect is flimsily motivated, her tracking of him murky and lacks dramatic tension.
There are signs that Clarke has been studying the current glut of Scandinavian crime dramas and some of their gloomy ambience is apparent.
Both plot and script, however, are underdeveloped and transparently threadbare in places, despite committed performances from the four actors.