Mister John (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner27/09/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Mister John is an engaging, enjoyably offbeat drama enlivened by a pervading sense of mystery, a perfectly judged, often weirdly funny script and a superb performance from Aiden Gillen.

What's it all about?
Directed by Irish husband-and-wife directing team Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy (who made Helen), Mister John stars Aiden Gillen as Gerry Devine, who comes to Singapore to look after his recently deceased brother's business shortly after discovering his wife's (Claire Keelan) infidelity back home. Gerry soon finds out that his brother owned a sleazy hostess bar called Mister John's and his brother's widow Kim (Zoe Tay) indicates that she would like him to carry on where her husband left off, even to the point of wearing his clothes.

Drawn to Kim, Gerry agrees to help, which leads to him attempting to get thuggish German ex-pat Lester Hersch (Michael Thomas) to pay his debts. And things get worse for Gerry when he accidentally ends up with a 12 hour erection after getting bitten by a snake near the site where his brother drowned in mysterious circumstances.

The Good
Aiden Gillen delivers his best big screen performance to date as Gerry, a quiet man stranded in a personal limbo that's more or less of his own devising, since he stays on in Singapore at least partly to punish his wife. There's also strong support from both Zoe Tay and Michael Thomas (whose confrontation with Gerry is a definite highlight), while Keelan is effective in a hallucinatory flashback scene.

Molloy and Lawlor's previous film Helen (2008) explored ideas of identity and an obsession with death (it was about a girl who began taking on the characteristics of a murdered girl she was playing in the police reconstruction of her final hours) and those themes are strongly resonant here too – part of the mystery of Mister John lies in the audience being unable to accurately divine Gerry's mental state, since he internalises most of his emotion. This leads to a powerful and unsettling atmosphere where we feel anything could happen; the scene where Gerry visits the site of his brother's death, for example, is genuinely shocking in a number of ways.

The Great
As well as generating an engaging atmosphere of mystery and general weirdness, Mister John’s script is often darkly funny, getting laughs in unexpected places, such as the cut from Gillen getting bitten by a snake to being told about his 12 hour erection by a doctor or the fight scene between Gerry and Hersch. On top of that, the film is strikingly shot, with Norwegian cinematographer Ole Bratt Birkeland making strong use of the exotic locations and contributing strongly to the pervasive dreamlike atmosphere of the film.

Worth seeing?
Lawlor and Molloy's second feature is an engaging, mysterious and darkly funny drama with a terrific central performance from Aiden Gillen. Mister John is the sort of film you'll find yourself thinking about for days afterwards. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 23/09/2018 04:16

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