King of the Travellers
King of the Travellers is loosely an Irish take on Romeo and Juliet. It is a revenge fable based in a troubled, dark, twisted world of Travellers on the fringe of Irish society. The nomadic existence of the stars (many of whom are real Travellers) is surprisingly idealised and lauded over by the camera of writer-turned-director, Mark O’Connor.
Starting with a surreal shot of a modern chariot race on a motorway, and with extensive use of close-up and shallow depth of field, the protagonists are shown with a Hollywood tint that is out of place in a film that highlights the gritty violence of gypsy life.
The focal point for the movie is the feud between the Moorhouses and the Powers. Our Romeo, John Paul (John Connors, one of the actual Travellers) is a Moorhouse and Juliet is Winnie (Carla McGlynn), one of the Powers clan. The allusion to the Shakespeare play only goes slightly further than the geographical location of the star crossed lovers (a field apart, used as the catalyst for a weak sub-plot). The characterisation is lacking, improved only with some wordy, melodramatic conversations which occur between characters from time to time, and afford them the illusion of depth.
Besides paying perfunctory homage to Shakespeare, O’Connor gives the impression that he is trying to make an Irish version of The Godfather, with parallels in the close-knit family of organized criminals, and lines like “You come to me on the day of my nephew’s wedding”. Sadly Uncle Francis (Michael Collins) doesn’t stand up to Don Corleone and John Paul is no Michael.
A cast of real actors would have improved King of the Travellers immeasurably – especially the old gypsy women, with their uncanny ability to suck any emotion from all scenes in which they are present. This aside, the film looked and sounded superb. Although it is never surprising (with every twist sign-posted a mile off), the film does have a couple of well choreographed bare-knuckle fights and some vaguely humorous moments.
King of the Travellers is released in selected cinemas on 29th March 2013.
Watch the trailer for King of the Travellers here: