After a long period in which films about Ireland have concentrated on the island’s northern province and its elephant hat – clad terrorists, it has recently become fashionable to idyllize Ireland, its green rolling hills, its whimsical and simple people, and not least its world – famous music culture. . “Guiltrip” escapes both of these stalls by combining the suspense and cruelty (which was otherwise the specialty of the Northerners) with a story of everyday life in the Republic without the usual romanticization. Well, it’s still terrorism, but here it’s just everyday terrorism that is portrayed, and that makes it no less cruel.
The story takes place in today’s Ireland, but it is today’s backward-looking society and the double standards and coercion of the traditional institutions that stand for shots in this film. There is thus no publicity for the marriage (which in Ireland has only recently become possible to escape), or for the military and its systematic bestiality.
The main characters are the couple Liam (Andrew Connolly) and Tina (Jasmine Russell). Liam is a general and has transferred his authoritarian practices from the barracks to his own home where his subordinate, the returning housewife (Tina), must be educated and follow the rules he defines for her, which are even laid down in ‘The standing orders book’ (the book with her ‘standing order’), to the letter. The balance of power is so skewed between them that love is simply not an option and the tenderness they have together depends on her anxiety and his need for paternal control. Terrified of her power-hungry and neurotic husband, she does everything to please him. ‘Everything’, however, is not always sufficient (or sometimes too much) for the quarrelsome general, and his violence (mental as well as physical) lies as a constant possibility throughout the film.
The tension is further increased by the film commuting between a veritable cross-examination of Tina where she must explain in detail her movement, and clips from Liam and Tina’s respective movements earlier in the day. Both of course have skeletons in the closet and the climax comes when the biggest ones rattle out, the riddles go up and the situation comes to light in a new and (even) more gloomy light.
It is thus a suspense drama with a good portion of social realism. The result is also not entirely unofficial. The film is wonderfully unpretentious, unsentimental and the acting performances are impressively believable (in other words, there is a long way from Guiltrip to Hollywood). At times, however, it seems a bit confusing with the many jumps between the interrogation scene and the flashbacks that reveal who should be on a ‘guilt trip’ and why, and a completely satisfying ending seems to be missing. The system-critical points are well-meaning but are put to the point to such an extent that they become almost uncontroversial and thus lose some of their power (with men like Liam, it is not difficult to join the fight for divorce law). Conversely, it is nice to have a film that does not have to brush off the violent atrocities to be hard-hitting and that hides neither behind irony nor advanced effects.