In an enticing premise – What would happen if a schizophrenic was made think that has just transpired didn’t happen? – writer-director Terry McMahon follows up the finger-jabbing Charlie Casanova with a more human and approachable story. But don’t go thinking he’s softened in any way as this story is at times just as divisive as his eye-catching debut.
Deemed no harm to himself or others, twenty-six year old schizophrenic Patrick Fitzgerald (Dunford) is afforded daily passes from his institution, which allows him earn some cash at a local supermarket and join his mother Maura (Fox) in Dublin for his birthday (which falls on St. Patrick’s Day). Separated from mum, Patrick falls in with a suicidal flight attendant Karen (Walker) who finds herself intrigued by the innocent Patrick as he’s untouched by the "s**t" that has tainted her. But Patrick falls in love and mum, knowing that this will end in heartbreak and violence, enlists the help of a shady detective (Jackson) to drive Patrick and Karen apart.
McMahon explores the notion that we’re all sexual beings and entitled to experience romantic love, regardless if we’re mentally ill or not. Love here can be a liberating life changer but it’s also poisonous: the sex on screen is of the unhappy, desperate, Gasper Noe kind, and a mother’s love can do as much wrong as it can do right. McMahon isn’t into fairy tales – as Maura points out to Karen, she might think that Patrick’s feelings are genuine but just she wait for the shakes and the violence that are almost certainly imminent. "You have to humiliate him," she says when she tries to convince Karen to give him up. It’s this tenderness and aggression that rub up against each other throughout and keeps the audience deliberately wrong-footed.
The dialogue doesn’t mess about. It has teeth – it’s pointed, aggressive, hard. At times it can sound unnatural but then we’re reminded that it’s between someone who is wallowing in self- loathing and another under medication who may or may not be imagining the whole affair. As in his debut, McMahon utilises tight framing that suffocates - Patrick is first seen through the ‘prison bars’ of a supermarket trolley, the aisles on either side hemming him in further.
Like Emmet Scanlon in Charlie Casanova, Patrick’s Day offers up a stirring central performance. Moe Dunford can be soft and welcoming, but something coils somewhere between those hard eyes and twisted smile. There’s an unpredictability to the character and edginess to the performance; Dunford is a real find. He’s not alone as Kerry Fox wonderfully portrays a mother stretched thin by years of stress.
One wonders what Terry McMahon will deliver next.