The Drummer and the Keeper
9th October 2017 6.15pm at Curzon Mayfair
10th October 2017 2.15pm at BFI Southbank (NFT)
Opposites attract, and often that seems impossible. How can relationships with others be built on differing attributes? The Irish debut from Nick Kelly puts a 20-something bipolar drummer, Gabriel (Dermot Murphy), with Christopher (Jacob McCarthy), a teenage goalkeeper who has Asperger’s. Gabriel is pushed into therapeutic football games after growing unmanageable by his family and friends. Christopher befriends him and, after a reluctant start, they both become good pals – and Gabriel’s condition improves as a result.
At its core, the film deals with mental disability, but doesn’t bathe the characters in revolting sentimental tragedy about having a disorder. The message is: though things can always be improved, it is what it is – so deal with it. Although Gabriel initially sees the other mental health patients as “freaks” and “retards”, he eventually comes to understand and respect them via his friendship with Christopher. Kelly deals with mental health honestly, normalising patients as people first and condition second.
Murphy gives an emotionally frustrating performance, ensuring a permanent ambivalence with his character. However, it is McCarthy who steals the show as Christopher. His portrayal of Asperger’s conveys the key aspects of the disorder without resorting (too much) to exposition. McCarthy delivers a humanity behind his seemingly robotic words, with sadness or happiness deeply ingrained between them.
Some avenues are hinted at, but not explored to their full potential. This is especially the case with a groupie who turns up at Gabriel’s shows, and becomes Christopher’s girlfriend. As a character, she feels flat and functionary – only included as a vehicle to get from one scene to the next. She’s an awkward blockage in an otherwise brilliant drama.
The Drummer and the Keeper is a funny and moving journey into mental health. As well as the emotional scenes, Kelly uses humour in a way that celebrates their conditions rather than humiliate these characters – positing a way of living together without ostracism. He teaches the audience that those with mental health problems are as human as those without. With plenty of weird things in the world already, mental illness shouldn’t be treated as one of them.
The Drummer and the Keeper is released nationwide on 8th September 2017.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for The Drummer and the Keeper here: