Any artist wants to convey emotion or worldview through their particular medium but when it comes to architecture it’s difficult to read warmth, love, etc. in a building. Especially for a layman. But let Simon Walker change your mind, as he investigates buildings designed by his late father Robin Walker, considered to be at the vanguard of modern Irish architecture in the 1960s, and what they inform him of his father’s personality. Sé Merry Doyle follows up Dreaming The Quiet Man, his entertaining deconstruction of John Ford’s classic Irish comedy-drama, with this quiet, introspective documentary.
Doyle opens Talking To My Father in a clever fashion: having Simon Walker revisit the house he was raised, peering over the wall of the closed off house, the viewer becomes almost nostalgic for Walker’s youth. From that point on we’re in Walker’s shoes as he attempts to understand his father Robin Walker a little better through the buildings he designed. The director invokes childhood memories throughout; when Simon reminisces trotting behind his father as they climbed the steps Robin designed NUIC, Doyle shoots this memory with the camera at a child’s height.
As we’re taken on a walking tour of his father’s work – the O’Flaherty House in Kinsale, the restaurant building in NUIC, Bank of Ireland HQ on Baggot Street, the grandstand at the Curragh, St. Columbia’s science building, the Maynooth Arts Facility and many more – Simon lectures on the aesthetic and the ideas behind the designs. Robin was a champion of nature and the building not only living in harmony but influencing each other. It’s like an easy-going class that encourages one to look with a different eye.
The director doesn’t sit back and let the buildings speak for themselves, occasionally shooting them at angles to heighten the impact of the design (or maybe look at it the way Robin Walker would), or panning slowly panning across their façade to add a sense of wonder. Some still shots can look like album covers.
But it can suffer from repetition at times and while Doyle and Walker are at pains to keep the narration/discussion as simple as possible, things can get a little technical at times. Very interesting on the whole, though, and its take on the parent-child relationship is very unique.