8 May 2022
Brian Stynes, Mike O' Dowd
Michael Linehan, Ann Dorgan, Maria O'Callaghan, Paul Broderick
Most people will have at least one story of a coach ride from their childhood. Whether it be a school outing or visit to the seaside it will trigger memories for mostly the wrong reasons. A grown up Killian (Derek Murphy) narrates this affecting tale of a coach trip taken with his mother as a boy. The West Cork coast provides the backdrop as a coach loaded with characters begins a journey of discovery. They have secrets to keep and stories to tell as a web of entwined lives gently unravels.
Dave Burke (Michael Linehan) has organised the trip and is the local fixer. He can get you anything you want for a price, only don’t ask him where he got it from. Alice (Ann Dorgan) surveys life in forensic detail and happily swaps gossip with Fran (Maria O'Callaghan). The thuggish and moody Shane (Paul J. Coffey) adds tension to an otherwise relaxed atmosphere. The jovial mood is turned on its head when a mysterious man (Brian Collins) suddenly dies. Driver Jer (Paul Broderick) turns detective, and is convinced the passengers know a lot more than they’re letting on. They claim to know little about him but still waters often run deep.
Coast Road ticks all the right boxes and makes full use of the spectacular Irish coast. Director Brian Stynes captures real geniality with characters that are instantly endearing. The partially improvised script co-written by Mike O’Dowd crackles with humour and mischief. The plotting lands squarely in Agatha Christie territory as the coach assumes an earthy equivalence to the Orient Express. A marvellous intimacy is created and the viewer is able to eavesdrop on conversations that feel natural and believable.
There is real skill in portraying drama that flows from one premise into something entirely different. The film begins as a cosy almost nostalgic snapshot of a simple life. The coach is a microcosm of a close knit community where people lived in each other’s pockets. The death then changes the tenor and everyone on board becomes a suspect. The climax brings the story to a satisfactory conclusion, but is made possible by an excellent cast delivering well-judged performances.