So it’s human nature to shorten names sometimes with not always desirable effects. For instance Angie Dickinson becomes Dick, Jennifer Titus becomes Tit and and as for the late Godfather actor Richard Conte…….anyway in Calm with Horses actor Cosmo James plays Doug Armstrong known as Arm. It’s an appropriate nickname for an ex-boxer, all bullet head and brawn, who won a county championship in Ireland and, ‘could have been a contender’. Instead he’s fallen in with a bad crowd, the Devers family, who value loyalty over blood. The Devers, frequently pronounced to sound like ‘Devils’, are a bunch of Irish drug dealers and, having fallen under their wing as a strong arm enforcer, is seen beating a man unconscious as the man in question had drunkenly molested a 14 year girl in the Dever family.
As a flipside to his brutality Arm is also a father to an autistic son yet separated from the child’s mother and only sees him occasionally not really knowing how to cope with his son and its why his mother wants to take him away to a special needs school in Cork and away from Arm and his criminal associates. There’s a scene where Arm takes his autistic son to a funfair for a day out and with best intentions tries to get him to take part in a rifle range only for the boy to grow increasingly upset in what is an increasingly distressing scene to watch as the boy grows ever more hysterical the more Arm insists on him firing the rifle. It’s one of many strong scenes in director Nick Rowland’s debut feature film.
But its when Arm, regarded by the Devers as their personal enforcement officer, order him to kill a the man child molestor that he earlier administered a near fatal beating and his reluctance to carry out the order is understandable. And its Barry Keoghan as a Devers family member wanting to make a name for himself who plies Arm with booze and cocaine to get him to do the dark deed. It’s from here where he has to deal with the increasingly brutal consequences of what Arm does.
Directed by Nick Rowland, Calm with Horses is a blistering feature film debut with a great lead performance of a conflicted male in a situation he should never have got himself into and can’t get himself out. Calm with Horses rumbles with an undercurrent of violence that threatens to explode at any moment all heightened by a ruthlessly efficient sound design . Calm with horses crackles with menace and is a brilliant, brilliant debut.
Here’s the Calm with Horses trailer……