Irish films are beginning to edge toward a more commercial bent. Grabbers, The Stag and Mrs. Brown's Boys set out to get bums on seats and appeal to audiences beyond these shores. Standby is the latest, a charming romantic comedy that's distinctly Irish yet could play anywhere.
Unlucky-in-love Alan (Gleeson) is a tourist advisor at Dublin airport, answering inane questions and fending off irate travellers but things perk up on Valentine's Day when the beautiful Alice (Paré, Mad Men) comes to the desk looking for accommodation. They enjoyed a summer romance in New York eight years ago and, spurred on by the day that's in it, invites her to stay with him so they can chat, catch up, etc. Dropping off her bags at his flat, which he shares with his divorced father (Townsend), they turn into the Dublin night looking to fill up the time before her morning flight…
With its dialogue-driven story and its one city-one night romance, Before Sunrise is the go-to reference point here but because of Alan and Alice's bit of previous this is more akin to Linklater's follow up Before Sunset. Either way this is an assured debut from director brothers Rob and Ronan Burke who somehow manage to make Dublin look energetic and romantic as the would-be lovers criss-cross the city looking for something to do.
The running joke is that there is nothing really to do, as proceedings move from a pub to restaurant to hotel bar to club. Dotting the script with bubbly dialogue and witty one-liners, Standby doesn't ignore the capital/country's singular evening attraction. “Is this all there is to do in Dublin?” Alice asks at one point. Sadly, yes.
Pierce Ryan's script, keeping the evolving conversations more grounded that the well-read, philosophising couple of the Before trilogy, avoids what could have easily been an episodic story and slowly teases out the static between the leads. The Burke brothers keep things moving and there are some real nice touches, like the wedding scene and the dance to a string quartet version of Just Can't Get Enough.
Gleeson and Paré are a likeable couple who circle each other, trying to give little away. Francesca Cherrault, as Alan's straight-talking colleague, makes good with the laughs.
A thoroughly likeable romantic comedy.