It’s escaped few people’s notice that Maisie Williams, the actor behind Game Of Thrones’ wilful and deadly survivor Arya Stark, is a real talent. Irish writer/director Niall Heery certainly took note of the fact, and his debut feature, Gold, is all the better for her presence as a sardonic, foul-mouthed teenager confronted by the appearance of her estranged dad, Ray (David Wilmot).
Indie comedy-drama Gold finds Ray “trying to get things back on track” after a prolonged stay in a mental health hospital. Back in town to visit his dying father and pay his respects to the woman and child who left him twelve years earlier for the stability of P.E. teacher, Frank, (James Nesbitt), Ray soon gets his feet under the table at the family home, stirring up the past with Alice (Kerry Condon) and attempting to connect with his amateur runner daughter, Abbie (Williams).
Running to a neat 85 minutes, Gold is a comedy drama with serious themes. Grief, loneliness, suicide and depression all sit – somewhat uneasily at times – next to satirical humour and gentle family comedy.
Nesbitt’s self-important “high performance coach” (not a world away from Paddy Considine’s role in Submarine) boasts his own risible range of fitness programme DVDs promising “a new way to use your foot”. His is a cartoonish character whose admittedly entertaining part clashes with the film’s rare lurches into melodrama. Gold’s repeat visits to Frank’s self-promotional videos provide laughs – especially when he’s been let loose on the SFX button – but don’t always marry well with its more serious moments.
In this way, Gold feels like a feature with something of an identity crisis. It’s at its best reining itself in to focus on the smaller, human exchanges between Williams and Wilmot, both of whom are on terrific form here.
The father/daughter story, especially with performers as strong as these, has scope enough to make the film’s melodramatic turns of event feel superfluous. The little Gold has to say about loneliness, lost connections, and life dragging you under is much stronger than its broader morality play about the dangers of pressure and ambition in the sporting world. A parent reconnecting with a child may be a familiar story on the big screen, but the strength of Gold’s actors would have seen it through without the need for such extreme, and ultimately superficial, shifts in tone.
That said, Gold rolls along happily as a film with an admirably strong cast and a sly, enjoyable sense of humour. A cameo by the beautiful Irish countryside certainly doesn’t hurt it, either. It may be somewhat uneven in tone, but its beautifully played human drama and wry gags have much more to recommend it than not.
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