- 07 Sep 17
Warm film about mental health and friendship proves thought-provoking.
The Drummer And The Keeper begins with an arse. The image of a young man, naked from the waist down, dragging a sofa across a beach at dawn embodies everything that’s great about Nick Kelly’s new film. It’s beautiful yet funny, quirky but dark.
For a film about mental health and developmental disorders, the nuance is necessary. Dermott Murphy plays Gabriel, a drummer with bipolar disorder who has recently lost both his parents. Traumatised by his mother’s cremation, Gabriel has taken to driving a hearse and setting random items ablaze. Told by his bandmates that he’ll be kicked out if he continues spiralling, Gabriel begrudgingly starts taking meds and receiving treatment. Through his therapy, Gabriel meets Christopher (Jacob McCarthy), a 17-year-old with Asperger’s, and the two begin an odd but caring friendship, in a world where few people want to understand either of them.
Newcomer McCarthy is fantastic, playing Christopher with a precision, bluntness and intelligence that’s at once awkward and endearing. His naiveté and need for order make him the perfect foil for Gabriel, whose cynical rock star antics have long concealed that he’s out of control.
As Gabriel’s bandmates are startlingly unsupportive of his new sobriety and treatment, Kelly tackles the stigma surrounding mental health and developmental disorders. Christopher’s condition is misunderstood, and he’s often mocked and infantilised. Though new terms like “neurodiversity” indicate a growing understanding of people with different needs, the struggles Christopher and Gabriel both face in finding supportive social networks show that culture is slow to change.
Kelly, a former frontman for The Fat Lady Sings, fills his film with music from Loney, Dear and Villagers, though his uninspired, close-shot portrayal of Dublin doesn’t deliver on the splendour of the initial shot.
Nonetheless, this warm, thoughtful and insightful film marks Kelly as one to watch.