Despite boasting more charm than his solid Small Engine Repair, Niall Heery's follow up, Gold, doesn't have the same confidence his debut had.
Returning home to visit his dying father after twelve years away, Ray (Wilmot – Studs, The Guard) uses the opportunity to reconnect with ex Alice (Condon) and daughter Abbie (Williams, Game Of Throne's Arya), both now living with Ray's former school PE teacher Frank (Nesbitt, sporting a Basil Fawlty moustache that screams 'uptight'). Attempting to put his life together, and spark something with his distant daughter, Ray's past proves to be much the obstacle.
Niall Heery has a knack of tapping into that small town little dreams = big achievement mentality (winning a cross-country race here means the world) and is able to get across a sense of place (Small Engine Repair took the back end of an unspecified part of the midlands and made it look like it was set on the Bayou). And there's the nice touch where the homeless Ray drives around with a couch tied to the roof of his car – a subconscious thought that he is ready to settle down, get himself together without being verbose about it.
But there are some questionable developments that belie the confident storytelling that has gone before, and these are developments that only occur when script structure is allowed to dictate and control, forcing the characters Heery (co-writing with brother Brendan) have penned into doing something wildly inconsistent with their makeup. Like Condon enjoying a drink and a dance when Nesbitt is laid up in hospital and Ray veering from sad sap to cheeky chappy and back again. Nesbitt's side-line of extreme-to-the-max training videos, like the (admittedly terrific) soundtrack, is overused.
But Gold rights itself again before the end and throughout the unsure moments the cast keep it together. Wilmot is always worth a watch (his darker side can be seen in this week's '71), Condon shows again that she's criminally underused, and Williams, despite the occasional accent stagger, makes good with the her strong young woman/lost little girl. Stephen Mackintosh, who starred in Small Engine Repair, turns up for an extended cameo and some laughs as the uncertain trainer.