Cal opens like a slasher horror film, using a tracking shot of a killer’s point of view as a car drives to the house of a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary before an unseen gunman shoots him dead.
After this sensationalist beginning, the tone mellows and we’re left with a romantic thriller set against the background of sectarianism in Northern Ireland.
Cal, a 19-year-old Catholic man and IRA soldier with no taste for violence (John Lynch) becomes attracted to Marcella (Helen Mirren), an older widow who is unaware that he was an accomplice in the murder of her policeman husband (he drove the getaway car used in the murder).
At times treading a mite too carefully along the sectarian divide, this is nevertheless a credible and often compelling look at how the Troubles intrude upon what should be the events of everyday life.
There’s a genuine warmth in the relationship between widow Helen Mirren (who won best actress at Cannes) and Lynch, but the tension amid which their romance blossoms is also well conveyed by Pat O’Connor – making his feature debut with this adaptation by Bernard MacLaverty of his own novel.
Gerard Mannix Flynn