Calm with Horses (2019)

AKA Shadow of Violence

Director: Nick Rowland EXE Producer Michael Fassbender
Starring: Cosmo Jarvis, Barry Keoghan, David Wilmot, Ned Dennehy, Niamh Algar .UK. 1h 40m

There’s a point in everyone’s life when their past catches up with them and atonement, regret and a moment of awakening can’t be ignored. But when your past is muddled with the dark underbelly of the Ireland fighting and gang scene this event usually arrives with a shed load of pain and grief and that’s what Arm has to deal with in Nick Rowlands debut movie.

Rowlands career was mostly shorts and TV segments, and I don’t think anyone would have been something this powerful coming next, but Calm with Horses is a masterclass of powerful drama and questionable characters.

Set in the darkest part of rural Ireland amongst the council estate backdrop, and ex boxer Douglas Arm Armstrong has become enforcer for a local drug dealing family and is soon to be built unfair hand and become the family’s new executioner, being a tough guy having an opposing frame you should be enough to get the job done however taking the extra step to take somebody’s life begins to take its toll on Arm. Amongst all of the Bravado, Arm’s sideway Focus ex-girlfriend Ursula (Algar) and it’s pathetic attempt to look after their autistic son 5-year old Jack.

There was definitely a few moments that touched a nerve with me regarding the autistic son, Jack feel firstly I didn’t think that the film really paid much attention to, he was more of a crutch to get a point across, firstly the namesake, Jack felt at peace while being around horses as did his father in one comedy scene, Also Arm it’s totally out of depth or trying to care for his son having no idea whatsoever how to help care for his son’s struggles, in one difficult scene he attempts to take Jack out for the day, only for the boys to have a complete shutdown and not being able to cope with it he just screams at the boy and then leave some with his grandmother literally dropping them on the doorstep and running away, not father of the immaterial however if you have not had two to learn how to help and I’ve been so aloof he would have have some semblance on how to help care for his own child, I feel that me being even a total stranger might have some better way of dealing with the situation, but in hindsight if I do look back at it I don’t think I would have done something as bad but what how well do we actually know ourselves how to help somebody with autism, shouldn’t something like this be taught in schools by now? It’s these difficult questions that I constantly raised within Rowlands gloomy drama.

The Devers Don’t Care About Blood… Blood Just Meant You Were Related… Loyalty Is What They Wanted

– Arm

Is quite gripping in the lead role as “arm” a character that we hope we don’t ever have to identify with but can easily sympathize with. On his own he seems quite tough however he’s trapped in a Costa phobic hyper masculine world and often seems as fragile as his own son. The real psycho of the movie is easily Paudi played by Ned Dennehy, who has a knack for seeming like a untrustworthy dirty bastard in many a role, he is often backed up by a wee sly bastard character Dymphna (Keoghan) and it’s their actions that easily seen as being those which lead to the more visceral and wrenching moments of the film.

Despite the dark nature of movie, somehow Rowlands managed to add in a few links of black comedy amongst this socialist realist narrative, looking at life from the margins and exploring the more toxic traits of humanity and a drastic redemption story chucked in with a touch of “romance” you can sometimes forget just help bleak this movies outlook really is and just how hopeless the characters are, for wanting to stay trapped within their own vices.


Rating: 7/10

Related: Shadow of Violence, Michael Inside, Cardboard Gangsters, Lists: Ireland 2010’s films



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