Written and Directed by Eoin Macken.
Starring Eoin Macken, Tom Hopper, Rebecca Night, Jack Reynor, Liam Carney, and Helen Pearson.
Returning home for his father’s funeral, Jack must face the brother he left behind. A woman they find on the moors complicates matters.
Death is a shaky subject in Leopard. It’s also a prevalent one, as this pressure cooker movie takes concrete facts, like dead is dead, and twists them into uncertainties that reflect the brokenness of brothers, Jack (Macken) and Tom (Hopper). Reunited by their father’s death, Jack hasn’t been around his small, Irish hometown in ages. No one seems to have missed him either. His family is at the center of multiple local mysteries but suspicions tend to fall short of direct accusation. Bartender, Rory (Reynor), tests those limits, by using the ample opportunities his job provides to makes indelicate passes at Jack’s managing to hear about the funeral in time. Or his dad committing “suicide.” Or is his mom being MIA. Or what happened to the girl (Night) Rory was with last night, who Jack had been spotted eyeing?
This last question is new and how the film plays with answering it is a brain twister of pitching one brother against the other, back and forth, as to who’s more suspect. Usually one would be revealed as more stable, and the film plays into these expectations gamely at the outset, but Jack’s a drunk, who’s near constantly in the process of breaking off for a bar, staying past his welcome and returning before opening hours. His memory can’t be trusted, perhaps by intention.
Tom will seem familiar for anyone who’s read Steinbeck as a gentle giant whose actions can take on unintended, impulsive results. Neither has the strongest grasp on reality, neither has a clear picture of what they did the night before, when the girl went missing, but together they find her on the moors, beaten and unconscious. When her discovery breeds more questions than answers, including exactly how badly she’s hurt, you know there’s a problem.
Steinbeck’s cutting spots of darkness, that can be shocking when you first read his novels expecting straight tales about the working class, are all over this movie, and Ireland makes for a stunningly cold backdrop. Yet right when we’re given a concrete, if ugly, certainty to digest, rather than let things boil over the film undercuts itself by having both brothers leave town, like it’s the easiest thing in the world.
The whole movie has been about establishing the opposite—a pressure cooker of contained drama. Like father, like son, Jack’s dad was a heavy drinker and his debts only remain inactive for as long as they don’t sell the house. As Jack puts it, they’re trapped, or at the very least Tom is, but in leaving, even temporarily, this trapped concept is spoilt. The departure’s as good as permanent, for abandoning pressing, present day story lines, and the problem from the past that they address instead was better left unresolved. All that early puzzle work, of conflicting possibilities for what happened to the girl, gets dropped and it’s a discouraging conclusion.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★