Some films can touch you emotionally. They reach deep inside the core of you as a person and profoundly affect you. Which films can do this is a highly personal and subject matter, but one stands out above the rest, ’48 Angels’. This film is the sophomore opus for Marion Comer who wrote, directed and produced this little gem of cinema. Not many films can convey an emotional impact like this. Watching it was more like settling down with a good novel in a comfortable chair than watching a film. It has that degree of intimacy to it, and that is so incredibly rare in movies now. MTI Home Video is not known for DVDs of big-budget flicks that everybody wants. Instead, they specialize in smaller, low budget films. Typical of their releases this film was created by someone who loves the art of cinema for other like-minded people. MTI caters to a smaller audience of discerning collectors. It is a shame that a film of this quality will not get the publicity or distribution that much lesser films receive. This is more a statement about the public than the filmmaker or distributor. Thankful both remain true to the craft and art of cinema.
Seamus (Ciaran Flynn) is a nine-year-old boy living in a sleepy Irish town. Outwardly he looks like any boy his age. His life is tragically affected when a doctor diagnoses him with cancer that will eventually prove fatal. News like this would certainly devastate a grown man. For such a young child a death sentence like this is unbelievable. It is difficult to imagine how any nine-year-old boy could bear up under the news that his body is slowing killing him. The film opens with a shot of Seamus sitting alone in a small boat. There is no sail; no motor does not even oar to guide his journey. He is adrift in the blue-grey water. In the hospital, he overhears the doctor talking to his parents. The blood tests show that additional chemotherapy would be useless. There are no surgical options, and things will most likely progress very rapidly. He wants to meet God before the end so he can pray for a miracle. He knows from the bible that God has healed others so perhaps he can be made better. Seamus decides to go back in the little boat and let the wind and waves take him to meet with God. He falls asleep and when he awakens he has drift ashore. He comes across a teenage boy, James (John Travers) who is belligerent to the lad. James orders Seamus off ‘his’ island. Seamus runs, and James pursues. They come across an unconscious man (Shane Brolly) lying in the brush. James thinks he is dead, but after Seamus pokes him with a stick a few times, he is injured but manages to awaken. Some official looking man appears to be searching for him. James helps Seamus pull the semi-conscious man into the boat. The three continue to drift along the river. When they notice that the man has a wound in his side, Seamus starts thinking. James goes off to find help. He reaches a road where he is picked up by a driver (Brendan Mackey). He has Jesus Saves tattooed on his knuckles and a bible in the car. He begins to talk to James about Jesus asking if he has ever met him. He states that he did while he was in prison. James wonders if Jesus was with him why did he let he commit a crime in the first place. The man explains about free will and that it doesn’t preclude faith. James manages to steal the car leaving the man at the side of the road. He drives back to where Seamus and the man are waiting. Along the way, Seamus begins to wonder if the man is Jesus sent to help him in some way. The three find shelter in a deserted house where the man regains consciousness. In a flashback, we see that James had recently attended the funeral of his father who was a police officer. Apparently, he was killed in action, and James reacts by taking up with a violent crowd. Over time the three begin to talk to each other. A tenuous bond is formed that starts to strengthen. Each is struggling with their demons. They all have a shell surrounding their hearts that slowly begins to break down as they realize they need each other.
This is a rare kind of film. There are no explosions, no computer effects in sight. The budget of this movie would barely cover the catering expenses of a big flick. There is one thing that separates this film from those costly movies, talent. Marion Comer may be a newcomer to film, but she certainly knows how to tell a story. There is a gentleness here that pervades the film. Some people in the audience may feel that nothing happens. Unfortunately, these people have become desensitized by Hollywood blockbusters. A lot happens here on a very real human level. You just have to be willing to listen and open your heart. This is also a film of contrasts. Each of the three main characters is conflicted in some way. The visual manifestation of this uses the gorgeous scenery of the Irish countryside. It goes from the warm, lush greens of the land to the stark, almost distant blues and grays of the water. Seamus wanting to just drive to where the boat takes him is a perfect metaphor for a boy in this situation. Medical science has nothing more to offer him, so he decides to let God lead him through the wind and waves. The cinematography is stunning. Each frame is a perfect example of composition. Many directors with much longer resumes would be wise to study the example set by Ms. Comer. As a writer, Ms. Comer has given us a story that is worth telling and worth hearing. There is no social message here just three damaged people who need each other to be whole again. There is a synergy present with the interwoven stories that make this film a stellar achievement.
The cast here is lead by first-timer Ciaran Flynn. For one of such young years, he has a command of the screen that is truly impressive. He gives a multilayered performance here that strikes every emotion. He can tug at your heartstrings one minute and make you laugh the next. He has a quiet presence on screen that holds the audience firmly. As the rebellious James, you couldn’t ask for better than John Travers. So many young actors would overplay this role. Here less is more. Travers delivers a presentation that is completely realistic. Shane Brolly is a better actor unconscious that many are fully awake. He is gentle but with a hidden side that makes the audience want to know more about him. Together these three have a chemistry that is just amazing to behold.
Thank you MTI for giving people the opportunity to experience a film like this. Most places do not have the luxury of a local art house theater. As such we have to depend on a distributor like MTI to make us aware of special films like this one. You don’t so much watch this film as experience it. Like the little boat just get this DVD and let it take you away.
Posted 11/16/07 11/04/2017