The Gruesome Barber
Most will know Robert Carlyle as Begbie from Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) or as one of the laid off steal workers turned Chippendale dancers in The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, 1997). Carlyle’s style of semi-method acting provides him with a very believable twitch of excitable energy, such as his performance in Ravenous (Antonia Bird, 1999). At the same time his drama school beginnings and personal sentiments allow his presence to linger and stand out in films that require dramatic subtleties - Angela’s Ashes, (Alan Parker, 1999).
This year marked Carlyle’s first endeavor into the director’s chair with The Legend of Barney Thomson. The film is a comedy thriller based on the series of crime novels by Douglas Lindsay, in particular, The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson. An emotionally prostrate barber named Barney (Carlyle) struggles to keep regulars in his chair at the Barbershop, where he has snipped ‘back and sides’ for two decades. His mother Cemolina (Emma Thompson) is a gambling junkie whose petulance could swallow an ashtray, whole. While looking to his mother for help after accidentally murdering his boss’ son Barney is drawn into a befuddled investigation by local police of a dismembering murderer.
The grotesqueness and drollery of the characters of The Legend of Barney Thomson’s black comedy are thanks to Carlyle’s casting and the location. From the bright shinning neon of the iconic 1930s Ballroom Barrowland to the bleak rubble of low income housing high rises, Carlyle brings us a Glaswegian’s Glasgow. The backdrop that Carlyle creates is reminescent in style of the Dublin in The Commitments (Alan Parker, 1991) and the Los Angeles of Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994). In each film shots are composed and added with emphasis on the location’s authority over the narrative and characters; Carlyle incorporates the cultural agency that exists in Lindsay’s book, giving the characters the utmost authenticity.
Emma Thompson is just as much hilarious as indistinguishable at times as Barney’s foul-mouthed mother. Dull witted and disgruntled crime inspector Holdall played by Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast, The Departed) is superb as he spars with fellow inspector June Robertson played by Ashley Jensen (The Lobster. While the barbershop banter is thick with Scottish wit Barney, played by Carlyle, stands silent overtop his customers – ‘sluggish as a haunted tree.’ In all the film has a remarkable cast who all deliver unique performances. This is a valiant directorial debut by Carlyle, it has some surprises and is freakishly funny, not to be missed.
The Legend of Barney Thomson screens at 8:00pm along with Mavis! (Jessica Edwards, 2015) 6:00pm and Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore, 2014) 3:30pm this Sunday January 10th at the Yukon Arts Centre Trailer and Film Info