The Drummer and the Keeper – Film Review by Bridget Deevy
Director: Nick Kelly
Writer: Nick Kelly
Stars: Niamh Algar, Peter Coonan, Phelim Drew
Former musician Nick Kelly’s first feature, The Drummer and the Keeper, unsurprisingly has music as an anchoring presence from the start. From setting the scene of an up-and-coming band (and the struggles of one member of that band), to featuring cameos from real life Dublin music figures, to its ever present score which shores up any pacing issues in the first act. The confident use of music throughout underscores an equally confident approach to exploring a difficult topic – that of mental health and the rights of those who are not, as the film puts it ‘neurotypical’. Not standard material for a gentle comedy such as this, but Kelly’s empathy for his characters make it work.
The storyline follows the titular ‘Drummer’, Gabriel, (Dermot Murphy), and his struggle with bipolar disorder. Coming down from a destructive manic episode, he is ‘prescribed’ the complementary therapy of joining a soccer team, and it is at one of these therapeutic sessions that he meets the ‘Keeper’, Christopher, (Jacob McCarthy), a 17 year old with Aspergers Syndrome, and the two gradually strike up an unlikely (or in the world of film a very likely indeed) friendship.
As is the way with story, there follows: order, disorder and order restored, however perhaps with a bit more suspension of disbelief than would be customary, but you get the sense that Kelly so desperately wants these characters to do well that he trusts their charm will steer a steady course through the choppy waters of the final scenes, and they do.
The relationship between the two leads is undoubtedly the film’s biggest success. Their chemistry is natural, real and nuanced. Both leads do well in handling their sensitive subject matter but McCarthy’s performance especially is confoundingly charismatic in its simplicity, he is endlessly watchable. While another actors may have employed a less subtle approach to a lego-obsessed, polo-neck clad, 20-questions-a-minute character, McCarthy’s consistent delivery and ability to show us the inner workings of a character attempting to make sense of a world where he has his rights diminished because he of his inability to lie, is arresting .
The Drummer and the Keeper has a mountain of good will behind it, and deservedly so, as ultimately it is a feel good film, and as with any feel good film, the most important thing is that you believe in and root for the characters. This is undoubtedly the case with this charming Irish film.