Updated: May 25, 2020
Directed by: #CathalNally
It’s very rare that self-financed feature films turn out as well as Cathal Nally’s Be Good or Be Gone. What makes this even more impressive is that it’s Nally’s feature debut after helming a handful of successful shorts. Be Good or Be Gone follows Ste (Les Martin) and Weed (Declan Mills), two down-on-their-luck criminals who are granted temporary release from prison. Taking place over four days, the film documents the struggle and temptation for a better life, and the repercussions of a time gone by. Ste wants to reconnect with his long-term partner Dee (Jenny-Lee Masterson) and create a stable future for their daughter. Weed longs to rule the world of high fashion but must learn to let go of his heroin addiction, and navigate a rocky path back to sobriety in order to attain his goal.
With two very strong, nuanced performances, Martin and Mills lead with an undeniable capability to connect with and control the narrative. From the outset, it’s easy to feel strongly attached to the duo, through all their ups and downs. Given the nature of the story, it’s not the most pleasant of films to watch, but somehow they find the humanity inside these characters, bringing out their charming yet damaged personalities. This is most likely due to Martin also having co-written the screenplay alongside Paul Murphy, and I must commend their commitment to making these characters feel real. At times it felt like I was watching a Danny Boyle film, such as Trainspotting, with its grittiness, dark humour and complex characters.
The rest of the cast, notably Jenny-Lee Masterson and Alan Sherlock, remain within the boundaries set by the aforementioned leads, and though I didn’t connect with any of them as easily, I appreciate their genuine performances for their respective characters. Each piece of this film feels expertly realised from the ground up, including the music and visual aesthetic. Supporting the tight script and shining performances is a moody score by two-time Emmy nominated Joseph Conlan. Ranging from high tension, to sobering lows, his score is present only when required as a reinforcement of the action on-screen. When paired with the suitably bleak cinematography by Stephen C. Walsh (with colouring and VFX thanks to John Talbot), a volatile yet delicate atmosphere is birthed for the whole picture.
With production taking place over three years, the cast and crew have clearly had time to dig deep into the core of Be Good or Be Gone. It may feature some unsettling themes, but above all else it’s a film about love and redemption. Cathal Nally’s feature debut is, after many years of hard work, one to be proud of.