Darragh Byrne’s debut feature Parked (2011), starring Bel Ami’s Colm Meaney and Colin Morgan, is a disappointing example of contemporary Irish cinema, especially when compared to last year’s triumphant and hugely successful comedy The Guard (2011). The film follows Fred Daley (Meaney), who returns from England without cash or employment, ultimately forced to live in his car in a parking lot beside the sea. This is where he meets 21-year-old drug addict Cathal (Morgan), who becomes an unlikely friend brightening up Fred’s lonely life.
There is some initial merit to Bryne’s debut, with its quirky portrayal of a man down on his luck, yet by the end of the film you feel little or nothing towards the characters or the story. The central protagonists, whilst watchable, fail to develop into interesting figures you want to watch or care about. Meaney’s performance never feels quite natural enough to make the character engaging and Morgan is disappointingly one-dimensional throughout.
Parked’s narrative, whilst timely in light of Ireland’s financial difficulties, also fails to really capture the viewer’s imagination. This is screenwriter Ciaran Creagh’s first project and, tellingly, it is peppered with first-time flaws. The focus on the ‘outsider’ is potentially engaging, but Byrne’s film never executes it adequately enough to make things interesting. That said, the decision to reveal little about why Fred has ended up in his situation provides a sense of mystery to the film that keeps you at least partially hooked.
Parked is a very run-of-the-mill affair that borders on the worst type of sentimentality, making for adequate but completely forgettable viewing. The cinematography and editing are well thought out in the main, but because of the film’s many faults, these pluses fall by the wayside.
Ultimately, Bryne’s debut is a disappointing film with limited appeal, weak performances and a mediocre story. Viewers would do far better to turn to John Michael McDonagh’s The Guard, or look ahead to his next project Calvary (2013) (also starring Brendon Gleeson alongside Chris O’Dowd), for a much finer example of thoughtful, yet entertaining new Irish cinema.