The Crooked Mile (2001)

D: Stephen Kane
S: Dayna McKiernan, Alan Smith

Harmless and inoffensive road movie following the travels of a young girl (Dayna McKiernan) in search of her father in the company of a shiftless would-be student (Alan Smith) who happens to be her neighbour. When her mother is hospitalised, the girl takes to the road to find the man who deserted them in her infancy, armed only with an image of James Dean which her mother has always referred to when asked for explanations. Unremarkable in most respects, but entirely pleasant, the film was among the first digital features shot in Ireland, and is distinguished by good photography and lustrous colour.

The details of the plot are pretty much standard for this kind of thing. On their road to Waterford from Dublin (accompanied by a goldfish) they encounter a variety of colourful types, including a lecherous truck driver who may or may not be kidding, and various other rural eccentrics. Like all road movies, the journey is spiritual as well as physical, with McKiernan learning something about the difference between dreams and reality and Smith realising the value of having goals, even unrealistic ones. There are some relatively unexpected elements, including the sensitivity with which the meeting between the girl and her natural father (Pat McGrath) is handled, but there is little here that has not been seen before. The film lacks the richness of an Alice in the Cities or the satiric punch of Paper Moon, but its basic sweetness (which never descends into mawkishness) makes it very watchable.

As far as Irish cinema goes, The Crooked Mile falls into a sub genre of movies involving children including Sweety Barret and The Boy From Mercury that use childhood as their muse but aren't entirely suitable for children. Though free of the grimy gangster movie trappings which might alienate younger viewers of Sweety Barret and the 1950s nostalgia which gives The Boy From Mercury a more adult appeal, The Crooked Mile suffers from lacking edge or excitement on a level sufficient to lure the small fry from the onslaught of Disney movies competing for their attention. Of course this is an issue in itself as far as Ireland is concerned, and in that respect, The Crooked Mile is the kind of film which actually merits encouragement. The film requires no apologies on terms of quality, especially for a relatively low budget film. It is well shot, well put together, and generally well made in every respect. The performances are generally good and the film is never boring in spite of the generic familiarity of it all. That it lacks spark is neither here nor there, but even a review of this type does become a case of damning the film with faint praise, which is a little unfair to a film with many small pleasures to offer those of a mind to enjoy it.

Review by Harvey O'Brien PhD. copyright 2003.