The Belly of The Whale Movie Review
Great performances that can’t hold up against the lackluster script and uninspired direction of Morgan Bushe in “The Belly of The Whale.”
Oh look, another film shot with unnecessary slow camera movement to imply a handheld camera effect, and a lot of close-up shots of people’s faces with a narrow depth of field, something we never see in Irish cinema these days. In case you are not catching it, I’m being sarcastic. Writer and director Morgan Bushe brings us a story of two down on their luck people who form a bond in a half-conceived plan to rob a small-town amusement arcade. This is Morgan Bushe’s first feature film, so I will cut him some slack as he is clearly trying to make a quality movie. Unfortunately, however, by trying too hard the film doesn’t offer the audience anything unique. Bushe basically takes cues from almost every Irish film to come out over the past few years and puts those in his film. A 15-year-old boy, Joey Moody (Lewis MacDougall), runs away from his aunt and uncle to an abandoned caravan park his father owned to reopen it. Because, apparently in rural Ireland 15-year-old kids can do that. Joey is a good kid who makes some bad life decisions that get him into trouble, just like last year’s “Michael Inside”. Ronald (Pat Shortt) is a broken-down old Irishman with an alcohol problem, just like – well, any number of other films that have a broken down old drunken Irishman.
Director of Photography Arthur Mulhern apparently attended the copy everyone else school of cinematography, in the same way as Bushe attended the school of copy other directors. The film has that same slow camera movement that is used in almost every film nowadays. He also does the extreme close-ups on each character focusing on the eyes, or the hands, or some object that has also been done to death.
I know I’m ripping on this film for being a cut-and-paste job. And I know how difficult it can be to make a feature film that gets picked up for distribution. So, to Bushes credit, there are things to like about this film. The performance of Lewis MacDougall as the troubled boy for example – he doesn’t it play it over the top like many of the older characters and does an excellent job of carrying the film for everyone else.
As a first feature film, Morgan Bushe does a good job. But if he wants to make a name for himself, he will need to find a style and look of his own that isn’t just a copy of everything else. For the audience, if you want to see a movie about a troubled kid, go see the previously mentioned “Michael Inside.” If you want to see something with an old bearded Irishman teaming up with some kid on an adventure check out “Bad Day for the Cut.”