Directed by Patrick Ireland
Written by Sam Wise and Patrick Ireland
Starring Mark Keegan and Patrick Ireland
Short Film Review by Euan Franklin
You can’t expect to walk in a city like London and not be struck by the issue of homelessness. More than 300,000 people are homeless in the UK, 8000 of whom reside on the streets of London. Roll up Patrick Ireland, the creative director of Shout Out UK – a political website for the youth of today. In his mockumentary short The Director, he tackles the attitudes surrounding the homeless with a funny yet poignant twist.
The title character is Patrick (played by Ireland), an egotistical filmmaker, striving (supposedly) for a realistic examination into the life of Liam (Mark Keegan), an ordinary man sleeping on the streets. However, we soon come to realise that Patrick is making the film for himself rather than to raise the issues of homelessness.
Warning sirens went off when seeing the tagline “A Comedy About Homelessness”. My first thought was: what’s funny about homelessness? Even worse was the asterisk on the poster, indicating that this is not a film for “snowflakes” – a term that is a needle to the liberal-minded (including myself). However, within 30 seconds, you realise Ireland isn’t mocking the homeless or the people standing up for them. He isn’t even trying to be comically controversial. He is mocking the ungrounded assertions made about homeless people by the wealthy. Patrick’s character is like a bourgeois David Brent: completely ignorant, but funny in his stupidity.
The Director struggles in its balance between satire and human empathy. Ireland and co-writer Sam Wise draw the wealthy characters like sketches in Private Eye, without any empathy or understanding as to the reasons behind their ignorance. There is an enormous amount of empathy afforded to Liam’s character, presenting a realistic depiction of homelessness, but Patrick’s character doesn’t encourage the real bourgeoisie to change their perceptions. Patrick doesn’t change, and so The Director’s grasp for profundity weakens. It’s like Ireland is saying that everything will stay the same, and the divide in attitudes will never be bridged – a takeaway that he clearly didn’t intend.
The performances attack each other, and to great effect. Ireland’s cartoonish acting fits with Patrick’s absurd personality, clashing with Keegan’s friendly, naturalistic approach to Liam – perfect for the fake-documentary format. Keegan is sometimes patronised by emotional music – implying that Ireland wasn’t confident enough in his performance to tell the story – but this isn’t an overwhelming problem. The passive conflict between the two characters is hilarious, particularly since neither of them likes the other. And it’s always funny to see a rich snob look uncomfortable in a soup kitchen.
The Director is often hilarious, and deliciously awkward. Despite Patrick’s unwavering attitude, he’s a funny character to watch self-destruct – particularly when Liam is exceedingly normal by comparison. As a political short, Ireland has done his job and makes us examine our own attitudes towards the homeless with more care and consideration.