Parked: Film Review

Parked Film Still - H 2012
Strong performances bolster a dodgy scenario in homeless drama.

Darragh Byrne's first feature stars Colm Meaney as a newly homeless Irishman.

A buddy film whose mismatched roomies share not an apartment, à la Neil Simon, but a parking lot, Darragh Byrne's Parked acknowledges the dangers and indignities of homelessness but is determined to look on the bright side. A very sympathetic turn by Colm Meaney both lends box-office appeal and helps Byrne pull back from the saccharine possibilities inherent in the premise.

Both making their feature debuts, Byrne and screenwriter Ciaran Creagh present an Irishman (Meaney's Fred) who, after years of odd jobs in England, returns to find his native country less hospitable than he'd hoped. Unable to afford a flat or to secure public assistance in a time of cutbacks, Fred parks his car in a seaside lot and, through fastidious organization and hygiene, hides his homelessness while trying to get on his feet.

Across the lot, Cathal (Colin Morgan) isn't doing as well. His gray skin and frightful teeth mark him as a junkie, but Fred's in no position to be judgmental. The two strike up a cautious friendship, and Niall Byrne's easygoing acoustic score (when it isn't channeling Satie) colors their small adventures with playfulness instead of desperation. Things take rather predictable turns, with Fred finding a love interest (Milka Ahlroth's Juliana, a pianist taking water aerobics at the pool where Fred cleans up) and Cathal being chased by creditors, and the script can't resist using Fred's watch-repair hobby for one groaningly obvious metaphor. (He examines a broken clock, observing that it's old but has character; it just needs "a good cleaning and a nudge to spring back into life.")

But the film's prefab aspects are countered by Meaney's convincing performance as a man holding shame at bay -- maintaining his dignity by force of will, even as his spirit sinks -- and by an uningratiating supporting cast. Cinematographer John Conroy finds enough shoreline vistas to remind us there are worse places Fred could have wound up, even as we root for the welfare system to give him that one good nudge back into the workingclass world.

Production companies: Ripple World Pictures, Helsinki Filmi
Cast: Colm Meaney, Colin Morgan, Milka Ahlroth, Stuart Graham, Michael McElhatton, David Wilmot
Director: Darragh Byrne
Screenwriter: Ciaran Creagh
Producers: Jacqueline Kerrin, Dominic Wright
Director of photography: John Conroy
Production designer: Owen Power
Music: Niall Byrne
Costume designer: Susan Scott
Editor: Guy Montgomery
No rating, 94 minutes