Star Rating:

The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid

Director: Feargal Ward

Release Date: Friday 19th October 2018

Genre(s): Documentary

Running time: 76 minutes

Thomas Reid is a Kildare farmer struggling to keep the farm a going concern. He’s lived alone in the farmhouse, a cluttered abode that more than hints that it’s occupied by a hoarder, which has been in his family for generations: this is not just a farm to Thomas. But all that is threatened to be taken away from him when he’s approached by officials representing the IDA, asking him to sell his land. When Thomas politely refuses, the IDA set about pressuring him but the lonely farmer is determined not to sell and is prepared to take it all the way to the High Court…

Playing like a sister film to Gerrard Barrett’s grim debut 'Pilgrim Hill', Feargal Ward’s trim feature length debut is an engaging David Vs Goliath story. But Ward, along with co-writer Tadhg O’Sullivan, takes an unconventional approach to the case. They stay with Thomas Reid throughout, who rarely leaves his farm, and so incorporate dramatic reconstructions of the court case right there in the fields with the dialogue taken from the court transcripts.

It can be a distracting tactic, as it draws attention to what the director is up to when the audience is supposed to be engrossed with the character study, and yet it remains a strangely refreshing one. The aerial shot that has the camera sweep over Reid’s farm while the radio belts out reports of the ongoing case, developments that are far beyond poor Thomas Reid’s control, is a wonderful touch.

The unseen forces at play, forcing the hand of this honest man angry up the blood something rotten. The way the IDA officials handle the compulsory purchase order at the behest of a global tech corporation is nothing short of bullying. At one point Reid discovers a dead rabbit, and wonders if his land has been poisoned. Reid, on his own – always on his own – does what he can to push back: the blocking up of his letterbox in a vain attempt to claim he never received any letters of notification is as brilliant as it is pathetic.

It’s when Ward lets the camera run on Reid, who allows the crew a peek into his very private life, that gives the docu-drama real heart. Reid is reluctant to throw anything out and is proud of his mountainous VHS library (a lot of Dallas and Keeping Up Appearances) and his vinyl collection (The Stones, a debut 7 inch from The Boomtown Rats).

Score one for the little guy.