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What Richard Did

2012 | 88 min | BBFC: 15 | 2.39:1

What Richard Did


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Movie appeal

Coming of age5%


Theatrical release date

 10 May, 2013
 11 January, 2013

Country of origin

 United Kingdom

Box office




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What Richard Did


Screenshots from What Richard Did Blu-ray

What Richard Did Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, May 9, 2013

“What Richard Did” doesn’t move in traditional melodramatic directions, preferring to sustain an air of realism that often results in startling turns of character. It’s a low-key production, perhaps painfully so to some viewers, asking those with patience to stick with the relatively mundane aspects of Irish teen life before it springs an act of violence that changes the entire rotation of the picture. “What Richard Did” isn’t shocking in obvious ways, preferring to stun the audience with an authentic atmosphere of guilt and indecision, investing in the frustration of delayed response over unapologetic manipulation. It’s a quiet film, with stillness its secret weapon.

In Ireland, Richard (Jack Reynor) is an average teen facing the twilight of his adolescence in the summer before college begins. Clinging to the last remnants of team sport dedication and classmate tomfoolery, Richard finds himself drawn to Lara (Roisin Murphy), a friendly girl who still cares for the well being of her ex, Conor (Sam Keeley). Looking to begin a relationship with Lara, Richard can’t help be feel jealous over her tenderness with Conor, with the tension coming to a head late one night after a party. What begins as aharmless accusations ends with Conor’s death at the hands of Richard, who immediately retreats, awaiting punishment that never arrives. With cops baffled and his friends remaining silent, Richard is left with live with the enormity of his actions, unable to turn to the comfort and support of his father, Peter (Lars Mikkelsen). As the season passes, Richard struggles with his conscience, regressing in behavior to cope with his tragic mistake as the very moment his future is about to commence.

I’ll fully admit, there was a point after the first act of “What Richard Did” concluded where I was ready to give up on the movie. An adaptation of the short story “Bad Day in Blackrock,” scripted by Malcolm Campbell, the feature takes its time setting the mood of Richard’s carefree life and social order. The opening of the film primarily consists of Richard and his pals congregating on beaches and inside pubs, downing pints of beer as they enjoy their final moments together as a team, gossiping and joking. There’s a behavioral purity here that takes time to comprehend, revealing director Lenny Abrahamson’s comfort with everyday interactions, getting to know Richard in a causal way that exposes his sense of right or wrong in a plain manner, thus generating a valuable intimacy without plumbing the depths of hysteria. It’s an unusual plan of attack, making the early going of the picture feel like a shapeless home movie struggling to isolate maturation in motion.

Of course, this slow march to the gallows is intentional, and once the central act of irreversible violence occurs, it becomes clear what Abrahamson is searching for with “What Richard Did.” It’s not a clap of thunderous shock, but the sinkhole feeling of this finger-snap mistake that sends the lead character into a tailspin, unprepared to deal with the repercussions of murder, though it soon becomes clear that true punishment may never arrive, with Richard protected by some, baffled by others as Conor’s death remains unsolved. Refusing blunt violence, Abrahamson holds to a chilling distance, observing the killer recoil into himself, processing suffocating feelings of guilt while his survival instinct kicks in, unsure of he should turn himself in or allow the natural flow of the stymied investigation to blow on by, leaving the college freshman to carry on as normal. “What Richard Did” doesn’t raise questions, it simply works over the possible conclusions of this heavy moral choice, watching the teen do whatever his can to avoid the broadsword swing of culpability, soon taking to an empty sexual escapade with an underage girl to drown out of the tinnitus of remorse that’s consuming him.

There are more than a few outstanding moments in “What Richard Did,” which carries itself with a credible tone of pain and shame, felt most deeply in haunting scenes of confession between Richard and his father. Reynor is exceptional in the lead role, providing an authentic way with the boy’s anxiety, never overplaying or undercutting, maintaining realism to the bitter end. However, “What Richard Did” isn’t a snappy movie, showing strain as it attempts to elongate the original short story. It requires a relaxation of expectation to best soak up its subtlety and honest emotion, permitting simplicity to guide the profound introspection on display.

Starring: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley, Fionn Walton, Lars Mikkelsen
Director: Lenny Abrahamson

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