Glasgow Film Festival Review: ‘Michael Inside’

In this gritty social realist film, 18 year old Michael (Dafhyd Flynn) is caught stashing class A drugs and is sentenced to three months in prison. This is one of many films in the “Ireland: The Near Shore” strand at Glasgow Film Festival. The film opens by setting the scene, with the arrest and then the establishing of further characters before the court appearance. We see Michael’s grandfather Francis (Lalor Roddy) and Michael’s girlfriend Orla (Hazel Doupe).

This is a real missed opportunity, at the start of the film when Michael is on bail, to build some tenderness into the narrative. ‘Michael Inside‘ is keen to highlight violence in society, but where some other pictures play this against what could’ve been, here we see a kind of relentless theme that sticks to the entire narrative structure. For instance, in Ken Loach’s ‘Sweet Sixteen‘ (2002) the character is driven in the narrative to make money to afford to buy a home.

In ‘Michael Inside‘ there are elements of storytelling that explore life beyond a prison sentence. Francis’ relationship with his grandson could’ve more explored. Michael’s dedication to his girlfriend is established, but she does not have much screen time at all. There are also mentions of the death of Michael’s mother – but these are not reflected in flashback, nor talked about at length.

Dafhyd Flynn‘s acting is most convincing when he is the product of a violent social system within the prison and is forced to carry out actions against his will. The camera shows his nerves. We see the deepness of his breath, his pacing, and clear unease as the prison violence accelerates. Again Lalor Roddy gives a strong-willed performance as his character experiences tough decisions. He isn’t given a lot in terms of narrative and dialogue. His approach is measured, it is just unfortunate he isn’t given more to work with.

The camera and use of colour emphasise the harshness of the prison and the bleak outlook of Francis and the scenes in his house. The camera takes a look through the window at one conversation between Michael and Francis to give a real impression of inner city life and the everyday. In prison, there is one scene that is lit in a dark blue hue as Michael is questioned and interrogated by the other inmates. This is interesting and elevates the film to show us the lead’s circumstance and the toughness of the alienation he experiences.

We see that violence is not only represented physically in the film but also systematically. It is thought-provoking that both forms of violence are depicted. There are real and valid ideas, and the film has very well realised sequences. However, it never fully explores the extent of the social issues it presents in the same way Loach does in film or Jimmy McGovern does on television.

Zach Roddis| [rating=3]

Drama | Ireland, 2017 |NC 15 |Glasgow Film Festival | Dir.Frank Berry | Dafhyd Flynn, Lalor Roddy, Moe Dunford