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Review: Don't Go

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- David Gleeson's third directorial effort is rich in visually stunning atmospheres but could benefit from a more finely tuned script

Review: Don't Go
Stephen Dorff and Grace Farrell in Don't Go

David Gleeson's new psychological thriller, Don't Go [+see also:
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, was released in Irish cinemas on 12 April, after being premiered at the 30th Galway Film Fleadh last summer. This is the Limerick-born director's third feature, after his 2003 coming-of-age drama Cowboys & Angels and his 2006 crime flick The Front Line [+see also:
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. The story, penned by Ronan Blaney and the director himself, follows Ben Slater (Stephen Dorff), a tortured American writer, and his wife Hazel (Melissa George), who lost their young daughter Molly (Grace Farrell) in a terrible accident. Six months later, the couple is struggling to cope with their loss, and Ben gradually begins to lose his grip on reality.

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Little is known about the lead characters and why they are spending their lives in Ireland. Ben has come up against writer's block and decides to teach in a local Catholic school, while Hazel plans to transform their seaside cottage into a hotel. Ben has a recurring dream and believes that, through her oneiric appearances, his daughter is trying to send him a message to enable him to save her. In an effort to summon the dream more often, Ben keeps sleeping on the beach next to his manse, drinks whiskey and takes antidepressants. Furthermore, the story shows the intrusion – which is actually quite sudden and a little hard to believe – of Hazel's best friend, Serena (Aiobhinn McGinnity), who is probably the most interesting and underdeveloped character. Unfortunately, for about two-thirds of the film, the narrative is rather repetitive and lacks tension. The affable presence of Father Sean (Simon Delaney), a priest who develops a friendly relationship with Ben, certainly lightens the gloomy mood, but at the same time, his role has little bearing on the plot.

During the last third of the movie, Ben's unquenchable rage finally seems to liven up the story's dull pace. After a car accident, he shows up during the hotel's opening-night party organised by Hazel, behaves aggressively, hears mysterious sounds in his head, climbs the staircase and starts breaking down a wall with a hammer. Here, what may strike the viewer is the fact that the numerous guests attending the party do not hesitate to abandon Hazel and leave her alone with a man experiencing such an altered state of mind.

Nevertheless, Dorff and George are well cast in their roles. In particular, Dorff is able to deliver a good interpretation of this tormented father, despite not being fully backed up by the writing. The cinematography and soundtrack are two further highlights. Director of photography James Mather (NailsFrank [+see also:
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) delivers some beautiful visuals of the Irish countryside and does his best to portray Ben's paranoia through astonishing blue-and-red reflections, visible during the scenes set on the beach and on the manse's upper floor. Dutch composer Ferry Corsten does a fair job, too, as his tracks are simple and well suited to the film's atmosphere.

The main flaw in Gleeson's work is its ending; the overarching explanation he gives appears rather rushed and echoes a number of past cult films in this genre. However, it does provide viewers with a clear-cut conclusion to the characters' vicissitudes. All in all, this is an average film, and while certainly not memorable, it’s one that might just entertain enthusiasts of the genre. 

Don't Go is an Amasia Entertainment (US) and Wide Eye Films (Ireland) presentation. New York-based firm IFC Films is in charge of its international theatrical distribution.

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