calm with horses
DIRECTOR: nick rowland (debut)
STARRING: cosmo jarvis, barry keoghan, ned dennehy and Niamh Algar
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
Douglas 'Arm' Armstrong has become the feared enforcer for the drug-dealing Devers family, whilst also trying to be a good father. Torn between these two families, Arm's loyalties are tested when he is asked to kill for the first time.
Calm with Horses is an Irish drama directed by Nick Rowland in his directorial debut. Featuring a stellar performance from Cosmo Jarvis as Arm and a strong supporting turn by Barry Keoghan as Dympna, Arm’s friend and handler, Calm with Horses is an affecting and compelling film. It chronicles a period of time in Arm’s life when he must come to terms with the kind of life he has carved out for himself, and the impact this has had on his loved ones.
Arm is a former boxer turned enforcer for the Devers family in their criminal activities, who takes on a job to rough up a man who fell afoul of the family.
After Dympna relays his success in loosing Arm upon the unfortunate chap earlier, he is quickly shut down by his uncle, the patriarch of the Devers family, Paudi. This man has certain knowledge of the family’s activities, Paudi explains, and now he has reason to share this with the world - so it is imperative for Dympna to take that chance away. Like a good handler, he delegates this task to poor Arm, who despite his imposing physique and line of work, is a gentle soul not cut out to take another man's life.
Calm with Horses quietly builds tension, starting early on with the consequences of Dympna's ease in manipulation of Arm coming to surface in his family life. This later manifests into a perilous situation that threatens both Arm and his son's safety.
The rural Irish setting is another star of the film, the isolation emphasises the control the Dever's have over the township; no one stands up when Dympna parks his car in the middle of the street nor when he walks out with a bottle of Scotch from the local pub. People politely decline when Arm offers them a TV he pinched rather than calling the police, if they even have a presence there.
Calm with Horses is an excellent striking debut, which clearly displays director Nick Rowland's skill and his ability to create more with less and elicit strong performances from his actors.