Mostly, movies are a joyous escape from our everyday troubles. Whatever is getting us down or affecting our lives, movies are a great way to forget about all that, for just a second. Sometimes they are even just a great way to get our mind out of this messed up world we call home. However, there are some movies out there that, instead of offering the escapism we tend to often seek, hold up a mirror to reflect the tragedies of our lives, our mental state, and the horrors of the real world.
These movies are just as, if not more important than the former. These movies help in raising awareness of issues that some people may not actually be aware of. As well as teaching moral values to many, and helping those who are struggling with the topic in which the movie is tackling. Although it is wrapped in a gang movie package, The Black Guelph, offers up a truly devastating experience that tackles some very dark subject matter and the trauma that’s caused from it.
The Black Guelph Is Painful
Directed by John Connors, The Black Guelph is quite a difficult watch. As a proud member of the Traveler community, all of his filmmaking and writing inspiration stem from his background and the stories told by his grandfather. Connors’ grandfather, much like numerous Irish travelers and working class individuals, were sent to Industrial Schools which saw many residents become lost to their trauma, resulting in many losing their values, as they were thrust back into their communities. This resulted in individuals permeating their trauma through generations to come.
This effect of generational traumatization is still being felt today and has and is affecting countless families. Unfortunately, Connors’ grandfather was a resident of the notoriously horrific Letterfrack Industrial School, where residents sadly succumbed to years of sexual and physical abuse. This all came to light only recently in the “Ryan Report,” when the Irish Government began investigating these immoral institutions.
Connors’ influence and family background adds an authenticity, an understanding, and a respect to The Black Guelph. Yes, its subject matter is incredibly heavy, but Connors tackles these topics with the utmost respect, focusing on the traumatization, as opposed to what caused the trauma, above all.
The Black Guelph is a gripping movie from the get go. The initial frenetic energy of Canto’s (Graham Earley) criminal life is a fantastic visualization of his mental health and life. This is juxtaposed with Dan’s (Paul Roe) more somber and slower scenes, as the character is attempting to face his inner demons and finally find the peace he has searched so incredibly hard for. With some profound subject matter, multi-layered characters and relationships, stunning cinematography, and powerful performances, The Black Guelph is a 2023 movie that you have to see.
Dante’s Inferno and the Seventh Terrace of Lust
Inspired by Dante’s Inferno and the seventh terrace of Lust, The Black Guelph follows Canto, a 30-something drug dealer who is suffering with his mental health after his girlfriend Leah (Lauren Larkin) kicks him out. This is in order to protect her daughter, Rachel, from Canto’s criminal antics and negative influence. Canto’s father Dan returns to the area he once left in order to reconnect with his son, who outright rejects him for abandoning him as a child.
Dan then begins to become a somewhat surrogate father to Virgil (Tony Doyle) a student at Trinity College Dublin who suffers from panic attacks and self-identity. Virgil lives alone with his mom, Beatrice (Denise McCormack), a recovering drug addict. Soon, Virgil introduces Dan to his mother where Dan and Beatrice quickly become romantically entangled, seeing themselves in one another and their internal motivations to find peace.
The film delves deep into the topic of unresolved sexualized trauma, and how this trauma can be passed down from generation to generation. As a child Dan was sexually and physically abused countless times. His trauma from these events led Dan to abandon his son, leaving Canto in the mentally broken, drug-addled, and abusive state he is in when audiences first meet him.
As the seventh terrace of Dante’s Inferno suggests, a person can only be freed from their internal suffering when they talk about their pain and fear, in order to rid themselves of said trauma. In that case, The Black Guelph‘s message is that one should never suffer in silence. No matter the pain, no matter the trauma, if you suffer in silence the pain and suffering will only worsen, and you could and will pass this trauma on from each generation to the next.
The Black Guelph isn’t exactly an easy watch. In fact, it’s far from it. As you may have already guessed, the movie tackles some of the darkest ideas under the sun. Domestic abuse, drug abuse, and child sexual abuse are all prevalent here. However, Connors thankfully doesn’t bang audiences over the head with these delicate subject matters. Instead of showing graphic scenes of abuse, Connors rather insinuates what’s going on based on dialogue and how his shots are framed. It’s still an incredibly heavy movie to watch, but Connors is a fantastic director and still effortlessly gets his point across.
The Black Guelph’s Impeccable Performances
Every single cast member of The Black Guelph offers a sensational performance. However, it’s both Graham Earley and Paul Roe who steal the show. Graham Earley offers an incredibly raw performance as Canto. Early elevates the already fascinating and deeply layered character of Canto to new heights. He effortlessly goes through all the emotions and complexities of his character.
The scenes where his character breaks down crying, admitting the mistakes he has made, are incredibly powerful. As is the scene where Canto goes after some money that one of his customers owes him, leading Canto to walk in on someone beating their partner for money. It’s a tough scene to watch, but thankfully this is the turning point for Canto as he screams bloody murder at the abuser. Again, Graham Earley is simply flawless. As great as he is in these scenes, however, it’s the subtle face movements and his body language that has us praising his performance so much.
Paul Roe isn’t as chaotic as Graham Early, though his performance is incredibly sweet and moving as a result. The moment he breaks down in court is incredibly emotional, and Paul Roe is fantastic. The chemistry he has with the rest of the cast, more specifically Tony Doyle as Virgil as the two form a father and son bond is deeply infectious and lead to some of the best and most heartfelt moments of the movie.
Connors knows how phenomenal his cast’s performances are, and opts to shoot his scene in longer takes, allowing the actors to truly shine. This choice not only enhances the performances but also provides a sense of realism and authenticity, to the world and the characters.
The Black Guelph will be in Irish theaters November 2023 and worldwide streaming platforms afterwards. Updates will be available through Cluster Fox Films here.