SXSW FILM 2012
By Don Simpson | March 17, 2012
Director: Ciarán Foy
Writer: Ciarán Foy
Starring: Aneurin Barnard, Wunmi Mosaku, James Cosmo, Amy Shiels
Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) and his pregnant wife Joanne (Amy Shiels) are practically moved out of their dilapidated flat in a nearly-abandoned concrete Tower block. (Thanks to the Celtic Tiger, Tower blocks are being closed down across Ireland and the tenants are being relocated to other government housing.) Being a gentleman, Tommy brings a load of their stuff downstairs as Joanne waits in the hallway outside of their old flat. As Tommy gazes through the window in the elevator door, he observes as a gang of children donning hoodies attack Joanne. The elevator door is jammed shut. Tommy is helpless. By the time he reaches Joanne, she is in a coma. Doctors are able to save their newborn daughter, Emma, but the event renders Tommy a hopeless agoraphobic.
The remainder of Citadel features Tommy wrestling with nightmarish visions of hoodie-clad feral children. When Joanne is finally taken off life support, Joanne’s nurse (Wunmi Mosaku) turns to helping Tommy and Emma escape the economically ravaged town. Unfortunately, the bus only runs once a day, and Tommy has a innate knack for getting to the bus stop late.
In other words, Tommy is left behind by the Celtic Tiger and must face the remnants of the socio-economic fall-out on his own. While Joanne’s nurse pleads for Tommy to take a more humanitarian approach, Tommy deems the only workable solution (which is suggested by the town priest [James Cosmo], so it must be okay) to be the extermination of the children by burning the infested Tower block to the ground. Writer-director Ciarán Foy attempts to make the killing of countless children more digestible by visually representing the children as demonic monsters. In other words, Tommy is not ridding his neighborhood of urban blight with a fiery holocaust of the crime-riddled poor; he is killing soulless, otherworldly beings that are threatening to annihilate the human race.
The real kicker to Foy’s Citadel is that it is loosely derived from actual events — actual events that occurred to Foy himself. Foy battled with agoraphobia for several years after a violent mugging at the hands of a gang of youths. Eighteen years old at the time, that was the fourth unprovoked attack he had been a victim of. Citadel is essentially Foy’s way of standing up to his aggressors and enacting his revenge.
Surprisingly, Citadel lacks any real suspense or horrors; it is basically just a dark, ho-hum drama, that is set-up like a horror film. That said — the bleak post-apocalyptic landscape of Citadel is beautifully photographed and Aneurin Barnard’s performance (which is the polar opposite to his role in Hunky Dory) is astounding. For me, it is Foy’s dehumanization of the hooded youth that drains Citadel of its significance (it also renders the film fairly offensive to me). Not only does this narrative devise remove any sense of tension (of course Tommy is going to overcome the odds and win!), but it turns the film’s socio-economic message on its head. Foy’s Citadel is essentially a call to arms for the conservative agenda in Ireland to kill the poor (which is somewhat understandable considering Foy’s past). I am not saying that we should “hug a hoodie,” but there must be more humane ways to handle violence and crime in economically devastated areas. Oh, and Citadel won the SXSW 2012 Audience Award in the Midnighters category.