Alan Mulligan’s black slow-creeper is based on a solid premise involving an exploitative bank and the subversive and vengeful act that aims to shake the financial institution to its foundations.
Dublin, Ireland, barren and soulless office buildings and we are at the end of the latest recession where James Allen (Laurence O’Fuarain) works for a bank which, according to a TV report, has a reputation for being “aggressive selling and a willingness to seize families suffering from mortgage arrears “.
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Cranky and confused as he appears to be, James is appreciated as an avid salesperson of financial products. Her colleague Alison (Sarah Carroll) is also a model employee but does not get the promotion she was hoping for.
“Is there anything I could have done differently?” She asks her pugnacious and slightly creepy boss. “Maybe work on your killer instinct,” he replies, asserting the cut-throat attitude that James and Sarah would later rebel against in a dramatic and convincing way. Without wanting to spoil, the scam launched by James aims to benefit those who are losers when it comes to banking.
Is James a good or a bad or just a smoldering rebel? Mulligan’s great achievement in this film, through the impressive performances of O’Fuarain and Carroll, is to make us think about this question every time.
Another ambiguity is also cleverly maintained and makes us ask the following question: are the elements which unknowingly link him to the accomplice Sarah erotic or exploitative? How attracted or repelled is she to him? The film plays with our perceptions on these grounds with admirable skill.
Either way, James is certainly a good guy to make sure he takes care of his mom Molly (Ally Ní Chiaráin) after she was left speechless from a stroke. The stroke was caused, yes, by the arrival of a severe letter regarding his mortgage, sent by the same bank that is James’s employer.
Thereby The limit of becomes a film about bit players taking on society, but not in a gung-ho or triumphant way. James Allen’s act is, initially anyway, a lonely and desperate act. There is no self-glorification in his rebellion. Sarah’s big mistake is seeing an opportunity for blackmail when it’s not your usual bank robbery.
Written and directed by Alan Mulligan, The limit of is based on a clever premise that will keep your interest until the end. It won the Best First Feature Film award at the Portugal International Film Festival, 2018. It also won the Director’s Choice and Best Emerging Filmmaker awards at the Wood Hole Film Festival in Cape Cod last year. Sharper, crisper editing and less of that deliberate heaviness in dialogue and direction would have helped achieve a smoother pace, but that’s just a caveat.