By Don Simpson | February 1, 2015
Director: Patrick Ryan
Writer: Patrick Ryan
Starring: Brian Gleeson, Emma Eliza Regan, Maura Foley, Emma Willis, Clodagh Downing, Sam Monaghan, Chris Fitzgerald, Cailla O’Shea, Mick Duncan, Lorraine Fitzgerald, Siobhán Keane, Olwen Catherine Kelly, Elise Sullivan
Patrick Ryan’s Darkness On the Edge of Town opens with a girl and her gun (all you need for a movie, according to Jean-Luc Godard), as Cleo (Emma Eliza Regan), a skilled sharpshooter, enjoys target practice. Next, two girls armed with knives are tussling in a dark bathroom stall; one of the girls is left dead in a pool of blood. The next time we see the survivor of the bathroom fight, Robin (Emma Willis), she is sitting near Cleo in a classroom. After school, Cleo and Robin happen to stumble upon the dead girl’s body, which is when we learn that the dead girl is Cleo’s estranged sister, Aisling (Olwen Catherine Kelly). Like the hero[ine] of a classic western, Cleo immediately sets out to avenge the death of her sister.
No one knows who killed Cleo’s sister, except for Robin and the film’s audience. Set up in this context, the subsequent lies, deceptions and ulterior motives are all the more apparent to us. We observe the information that Cleo is provided during her search for the murderer, allowing us to critique her actions and better pinpoint Robin’s motivation. Darkness On the Edge of Town is all about the significance of Cleo and Robin’s choices, especially while the two girls linger upon the precipice of adulthood. Cleo and Robin are at an age now that their decisions carry much more significance than the petty crimes they committed as mere minors. Adults perceive their current behavior as reckless, but Cleo and Robin blame their delinquency on the instability of their family units; Cleo and Robin truly are the amalgamation of their tumultuous childhoods.
Set against the foreboding backdrop of Ireland’s fog-soaked, rolling moors, Darkness On the Edge of Town blends classic western tropes with the bleak moodiness of noirish murder mysteries. So much of the story is told in the shadows and darkness, which seems to be a reflection of Cleo’s perception; all the while, Ryan playfully utilizes cinematic reference points — such as a couple of allusions to Bo Arne Vibenius’ Thriller: A Cruel Picture— to fully flesh out his vision.