- Gareth Crook
Calm With Horses (2019)
Time for some grit. Nick Rowland’s Calm With Horses is powerful and disturbing from the outset. Following the story of Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong it’s bleak and hopeful in varying measures. He’s the muscle behind a tough Irish gang of drug dealers, the Devers. The Arm moniker probably comes from his surname, but it could easily be the way he swings a fist too. An ex-boxer, we’re 3 minutes in before he’s kicking the shit out of someone in their living room. It’s visceral, almost sickening so sometimes, quite a lot of the time actually. The rundown town of Glanbeigh is sparse, almost desolate. It’s a blank canvas, made all the more so with a desaturated colour palette adding to the dark tone of this dangerous world. Douglas, despite his power, has much more to his character, he’s a microcosm of the whole film. He has a son with Ursula, they’re not together, but he’s there for her and Jack. Jack has autism and needs care, when Ursula finds him a place at a school far from Glanbeigh, she asks Douglas for the money to pay for it. Douglas is loyal to the core, but his dedication to his son’s well being is at odds with his dedication to the Devers. Anything other than complete dedication to the Devers is at odds with them and sooner or later puts him at odds with his entire world. He’s trapped. Ursula wants to move on, to help Jack. Douglas wants to do the right thing, help his boy. To make the money he needs though, he’ll have to go further than he’s ever gone before. It’s a question right at the heart of Calm With Horses. Is Douglas as brutal and uncompassionate as his employers. Cosmo Jarvis as Douglas is utterly magnificent. You want so much for him to do well, be happy, be okay. There’s glimpse of hope, but there’s so much against him, one too many bad choices constantly dragging him down. A cloud follows Douglas, it’s a thick ever-present menace. Manifested by Blanck Mass’ fantastic score, haunting, emotive and relentless. The tension is horrendous, you know it’s going to go pear shaped, but it really is fantastic to watch.