BARBER movie poster | ©2023 Brainstorm Media

BARBER movie poster | ©2023 Brainstorm Media

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Aiden Gillen, Aisling Kearns, Gary Lydon, Helen Behan, Deirdre Donnelly, Liam Carney, Irma Mali, Steve Wall
Writers: Fiona Bergin & Fintan Connolly
Director: Fintan Connolly
Distributor: Brainstorm Media
Release Date: September 22, 2023

BARBER is in many ways solidly in the tradition of the private eye thriller. However, there are several changes from convention. For one, we’re in present-day Dublin, somewhere in COVID times; lockdown is over, but nobody is sure when or wear to wear masks, when to shake hands. And nobody carries a gun.

Our hero, Valentine Barber (Aiden Gillen), is a low-rent private detective who used to be a cop. That’s par for the course. (For those unfamiliar with Irish terminology, “the Gard,” pronounced “Guard,” means the police.) But Barber is gay. He’s neither “out” nor in.

Barber and his ex-wife Monica (Helen Behan) are both worried for their twentyish daughter Kate (Aisling Kearns), who is about to be discharged from the hospital after six months of physical therapy following an accident. The doctors aren’t sure whether or not Kate will be permanently affected.

Wealthy Lily (Deirdre Donnelly) comes into Barber’s office, ready to pay him good cash to find her missing granddaughter Sarah. Barber normally doesn’t take missing persons cases (his regular beat is insurance fraud and adultery). Still, he’s moved enough by Lily’s plight, and motivated enough by her money, to start the search.

Barber doesn’t have to look very long before he finds some ugly history relating to sexual abuse. While there are no direct connections to his own life, Barber begins to see similarities between the bullying he’s endured and what happened before Sarah vanished. In standing up for Sarah, and his search, he begins standing up for himself, with himself.

While the screenplay by Fiona Bergin & director Fintan Connolly is a bit on the nose in correlating the homophobia Barber has faced in his time with the sexual predation women face, they’re tackling worthy subject matter. More, the script and Connolly’s direction handle it in ways that are overall less lurid than the average episode of LAW & ORDER: SVU. This means the film is suitable for those who like detective stories but find most serious modern sleuth fare too gritty.

It’s a pleasure to see the excellent Gillen (Petyr “Littlefinger” Bailish in GAME OF THRONES) take center screen here, with enormous subtlety and nuance. It’s also great to see a gumshoe story where the protagonist’s journey deals with something other than the usual list of regrets. Kearns scores as the sometimes sullen, sometimes sunny daughter, and the rest of the cast is on target.

Additionally, there’s a twist ending that this reviewer, at least, did not see coming, although it is set up well from the outset.

The streets here are mean, but will be new to most non-Irish/UK audiences, and there’s political passion driving both the personal drama and the mystery. All of this makes BARBER worthwhile viewing.

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