“There’s never really a plan.”Shane
The Northern Irish coastal village of Ballywalter may seem an odd location for an English-born director of Sri Lankan heritage to film their debut feature, but Prasanna Puwanarajah has produced a wonderful, quiet drama about broken people supporting one another. Seána Kerslake is the film’s driving force, delivering a raw and vulnerable performance as Eileen, a twenty-something whose life has stalled. Introduced through her part-time jobs as a barista and cab driver, her anger and frustration make her ill-suited to service roles. The handheld camerawork provides a sense of her perspective of the people with whom she interacts and it highlights her attentiveness, noticing details like a seemingly distant couple holding hands in the backseat. Comedians have a tendency to exaggerate when they turn to acting but Patrick Kielty is surprisingly understated in his first role as the lonely Shane, separated from his wife and in self-imposed exile in Ballywater. Kielty is also well-placed to find the humour in bad comedy as Shane attempts stand-up through a workshop. The path of these parallel characters is less about healing than admitting one’s struggle and releasing guilt. In exploring these ideas, Ballywalter is a film not of dramatic epiphanies but of gradual self-discovery.