Review: Jamie Thraves’ “Treacle Jr.”

Possibly one of the best resources the internet has offered the movie fan is the website IMDB (better known longhand as the Internet Movie Database). The ability to faithfully follow a favorite actor or director’s work, from the one-off guest spot to the major starring role, has never been more simplified. It was during my pursuit to watch everything Aidan Gillen’s been a part of that I discovered Jamie Thraves’ Treacle Jr. An admittedly hard find in the states (I bought a multiregional DVD player to watch it but a digital retailer would probably be a more viable option) the movie was well worth the effort, becoming an instant favorite due to Gillen’s knockout performance as the innocent, cats and drums loving charmer, Aidan Murphy.
 

 

THE FILM STARTS OFF…

… quietly with main character Tom (Tom Fisher) sitting in his kitchen having breakfast with his wife and child. Posing no cause for alarm or suspicion he goes for a drive. Then the music starts and he hops on a train to London. Then he’s in a park destroying his credit card and throwing away his wallet. While he does turn back to retrieve the wallet for a family photo he’d slipped inside it’s become clear that Tom, without any fanfare, has decided to restart his life.

Why does he do this? Were his actions premeditated? Was he aware of his intentions when he walked out the front door? All of these are good questions and all of these are left open for interpretation, which will make Treacle Jr. quite frustrating for some people who prefer slightly more defined motivations. Yet Thraves (who wrote and directed the film) gets away with maintaining this mystery by creating such a complicated protagonist, where part of the fun becomes trying to figure Tom out.

 

FOR, ALTHOUGH THE SCENE THAT INITIATES THE PLOT OF THIS MOVIE—

Tom’s abandonment of his family—reads as a completely selfish and cruel act, Tom doesn’t give the impression of being a selfish and cruel guy. Anything but. This isn’t one of those bored with my old family, time to find the new wife and attend penthouse parties kind of stories. His first day on the lam is far more existential than glamorous and completely consists of walking and sitting—in a church, on a bench, anywhere quiet and sometimes with a cigarette or beer can for company. The most exciting thing that happens to him is when he gets chased by a group of shady teenagers, runs into a tree and blacks out. Waking up from the ordeal the next morning, he heads to the hospital to get checked over. It’s there in the waiting room that he first encounters Aidan and the fun really starts.

 

MVP: AIDAN GILLEN

Aidan Gillen as Aidan Murphy

Known for playing scheming council member, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish on HBO’s Game of Thrones, my introduction to Gillen actually started before that with another HBO show, The Wire. As in all great fan stories, this one started off with disdain. Never had I been more prepared to irredeemably hate a character as when he was introduced in season three. However it turns out Gillen has a knack for playing lovable scoundrels, which makes Treacle Jr such a notable divergence from his usual on-screen ulterior motives. In fact in this movie he gets the rare opportunity to play someone sweet and man does he have fun with the role, particularly when it comes to his character’s very distinctive speech patterns.

Bracingly loud and without censor, Aidan is a character who says what’s on his mind and gets on people’s nerves for it. What he says though is completely harmless, if not always understandable (making for some of the movie’s funniest moments where Tom attempts to translate). Coincidentally exiting the hospital at the same time, an amusing sequence follows of Tom trying to politely ditch his unwanted new friend and having no luck at it. His existential crisis becomes commandeered by this stranger who won’t stop talking but their relationship becomes the crux of the film. For all of Tom’s secrecy Aidan is an open book and their perfect, inescapable pairing is worth watching, even if the events leading to their meeting are vague.

 

While Aidan is by design the more colorful part, exuding cheerful sincerity in every scene, from knocking on doors offering to cut hedges with a pair of scissors to proposing a house cat’s mice-eating services at a restaurant, Fisher does a great job at not letting his Tom be overshadowed. Subtly balancing the tone of their interactions between annoyance and compassion he offers a great contrast to other people they encounter who refuse to give Aidan the time of day. His consideration only serves to generate more curiosity as to why this decent seeming guy is on the run. In this movie about finding answers, Aidan is hardly the source of self-enlightenment Tom was looking for but maybe that’s the point of a search—you’re supposed to discover something (or somebody) unexpected along the way and Aidan is that perfect somebody.
 

-screencaps from official trailer, credited Soda Pictures