The Randomers film review
The Randomers (2014)
Sarah Jane Murphy, Joseph Lydon, Bernadette Kennedy, John Wright
Byrnalan Motel Entertainment
CRITIC’S RATING: *** stars (out of 4 stars)
The art of love and communication (or lack there of) is the original twist for Irish filmmaker Graham Jones’s quirky and quaint romancer The Randomers. Jones’s affectionate narrative begs the question: can an unconventional romance sparkle beyond the unspoken word in the isolated hearts of a couple of young non-verbal lovebirds? Well if it can then the experimental vibes of The Randomers is off to a wonderful start because Jones instills this cinematic Valentine’s Day fable with the challenging premise of appreciating the act of togetherness beyond a string of loquacious syllables.
The uniqueness behind The Randomers certainly outweighs the intended gimmick for the expressive leads to simply emote passion through silence and sincerity of the soul. The problem is that a majority of romantic films feel obligated to pour on the excessive charm and risk an overwrought barrage of convoluted cliches to convey the message of stabilizing on-screen soulmates. In The Randomers the message is quite clear: the lonely heart can be satisfied other than hiding behind the comforted shield of flattering words. Refreshingly original and endearing, The Randomers surprisingly speaks volumes in its whispering elegance.
The Randomers is writer-director Jones’s fourth feature and he delivers a low-key gem that soundly resonates with spirited purpose despite slight production values. The anticipation sparks when the sentiment of an ad is placed on the screen for the audience to contemplate: “Female, 23 years old, seeks male for relationship without speaking…” This brings us to our pretty protagonist Dara (Sarah Jane Murphy)–the welcoming young woman from the west coast of Ireland whose quest to find a Mr. Right capable of “zipping the lip”. Although an unusual request, Dara’s diligent search for the ideal guy to accommodate her expectations come in the form of doe-eyed Senan (Joseph Lydon).
Upon meeting at a nearby scenic waterway in the middle of town on a bright sunny day the initial meeting of Dara and Senan is met with enthusiastic glances and sheepish smiles. Apparently the attraction is mutual as the impish grins continue to be met with noted approval for both parties. Soon Dara and Senan start traveling to the various locations as they warm up to the casual physical gestures of hugging, holding hands, strolling along pathways, gently stroking each other’s knees and shoulders and finally smooching. Without any conversation to lean on for convenience the couple depend on eye contact–both pensive and penetrating–as they instinctively allow their silenced company and the invigorating sites around the community act as the pleasurable distraction during this hushed hook-up.
Jones’s adventurous direction incorporates all kinds of visual serenity to stimulate Dara’s and Senan’s first date by having them roam aimlessly in picturesque places such as beaches, water streams, parks, green fields, forests, mountainous woods, carnival fairgrounds and an assortment of posh manicured neighborhoods. Essentially, the quieted couple’s travels is what really serves as the communicative pulse for the pair’s incentive to take in the scenery without an ounce of verbiage. Strange yet effectively utilized The Randomers act as an unexpected travelogue (the film was shot around the colorful counties of Galway and Mayo) where the audience is treated to the local flavor of the breathtaking region that tells a separate lyrical story independent of the non-talkative romantic leads. Plus, every intricate sound takes on a whole new hypnotic meaning without our lovey-dovey duo’s featured voices. We hear the calming and productive sounds of children’s chatter, gushes of rain, train noises and background television broadcasts. Dara and Senan may willingly push the mute buttons on their mouths but they have not departed a world that thrives on the interaction of language.
Cleverly and creatively, John Wright’s soothing and contemplative musical score convincingly breathes some insight, intimacy and intoxication into the whimsical and festive atmosphere that The Randomers tap into so poignantly. In fact, the delightful and moody music in the film is also provided when the kissy-poo tandem visit an indoor live music festival at a local dimly-lit club. In a rather unexpected sequence at a drinking pub we get a rare treat when listening to Dara belt out a heart-warming song that would melt an ice cube in the cool hands of a snowman. The crafty symbolism in The Randomers is adequately spiritual and uplifting from the twosome’s visitation to the expansive walls of the decorative church to the mere huddling under a drenched tree. The devotion and dependence that Senan and Dara hold for one another is indeed believable and even during a trivial session of them playing Battleship is enough to make Romeo and Juliet green with envy.
The performances by both Murphy and Lydon are engaging and intuitive. As Senan, Lydon’s eyes represent a mirror of ambivalence; we know he is happily smitten with this women yet we somehow can tell that this young man has an innate sadness that is hard to shake as Lydon alertly demonstrates traces of distance and despondence. Murphy’s Dara is playful, nurturing and just wants to escape her daily rut if only through a moment of unorthodox coupling. Overall, their union is thought-provoking and solid and never treads on the overly syrupy strokes that a big-budgeted hackneyed Hollywood romancer would exploit in a Dublin minute.
February is the month signified by love…and the release of The Randomers could not have arrived at a better time to challenge the recycled mush and make-out flicks that are sadly commonplace in a majority of toothless American-made romantic expositions. If celebrating Valentine’s Day at the box office becomes too much of a chore then give The Randomers a chance. After all, it is a sweet little film in which its flavored subtlety and simplicity is difficult to resist.
NOTE: Focus of New York film critic Frank Ochieng is a member of: