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Paul Andrew Williams
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Paul is a London tube driver with dreams of a cottage in a bee-loud glade. He's told that if his train strikes and kills one more person this month, he'll get a large severance, enough for the cottage. So he offers £1500 to Tommy Cassidy, a down-and-out Irishman, if Tommy will walk in front of Paul's train come Monday. He gives Tommy the cash on Friday. Wanting to ensure that Tommy honors the deal, Paul accompanies a cleaned-up Tommy on his trip (in a new suit and a hired car) to make things right with family he hasn't seen in eight years. Can Tommy, an inveterate gambler, make anything come out right? And what about Paul - can this suicide pact fulfill his dreams? Written by
'Three and Out', a film largely based around a character wanting to kill himself, is in all its irony, genuinely heartfelt, compelling and utterly hilarious as both a dark comedy and a solid character drama. There is no denying that this is not going to be for everyone, as the entire experience could be just as depressing to some as it could be amusing to others, but that's what makes it so interesting and refreshing. Furthermore, despite the film's grim premise I was pleasantly surprised that much of it is done in a tactful and tasteful manner, taking time to develop plot and character substantially enough to transform the otherwise quirky gimmick into a solid piece of character drama that never lets down. Sure enough this is by no means a perfect picture yet it certainly deserves a lot more praise than it has so far garnered; especially considering the ballsy themes and jet black tone which it adopts straight from the opening scenes.
What makes the film as effective as it is lies heavily on its script which takes time to develop fully realised, empathetic and highly likable characters, complete with three dimensions and who are consistently engaging. There are nevertheless moments when the writing does resort to certain stereotypes, but such instances are only ever used with good intentions and subtle shades, never truly distracting from the experience. The writers use their characters to successfully justify and back up the drama spliced throughout the piece, which when attempted with less well rounded characters would feel tacked on and cheap. 'Three and Out' more often than not gets it spot on however, with only a couple moments here and there which take things a little too far into overdone melodrama.
The best thing about having such characters though is that they too can pull off comedy when called upon, delivering many instances of tastefully done dark wit, derived mostly from the characters themselves. It's a hard thing to do no doubt, and although the balance of comedy and drama can shift rather drastically, for the most part they are blended together with great care, resulting in mostly flowing transitions between the two. As mentioned, the comedy itself is extremely dark, specifically when involving the subject of suicide. Yet thanks to the very careful, precise direction from newcomer Jonathan Gershfield, such usages are both emotively effective in the ways which you would expect from the themes, but they also manage to retain a sense of light-heartedness which can be rather disorientating from an everyday perspective, yet this is largely where dark humour draws its absurdities from, and it works brilliantly here.
The story is a bit of a double edged sword in that while certain elements are extremely interesting and move along with easily sustainable momentum, there are drops every now and again which don't work quite as well and drag the pace of the film to a much more disengaging level. Although things never quite get too slow, for too long, these small imperfections become rather irritating in context of the otherwise high-quality writing. Nevertheless the majority of the plot is wonderfully low-key, occupying just a weekend but taking you on a journey full of hilarious situations, compelling characters and homely locations (at least if you reside in the UK). It's a journey that becomes far more than its simple plot however and seems endless thanks to the people who occupy it. Perhaps most enjoyable of all though is that it always feels familiar and genuine, with very little fabrication or contrivance to be found.
Performances from the cast are terrific and are certainly one of, if not the greatest highlight of the feature with both Crook and Meaney conveying the tone of the film created through their characters perfectly, never coming off as over or underdone. I was a big fan of Crook's work in The Office, and was pleasantly surprised to find him playing a role similar but also distinctly different. He's incredibly emotive when he needs to be and brings a real down-to-earth- flavour to his character that really helps solidify the mature, intelligent focus of the feature, filling the lead role competently. Meaney who I have grown far more used to seeing in a Starfleet uniform and being neglected to repeating such lines as 'Yes, of course captain' is much better used here, given plenty of room to show his superb acting capabilities. He nails the big-hearted but flawed Tommy Cassidy brilliantly, bringing charm and charisma to the duo. Both share brilliant interactions and the chemistry is high enough to meet the demands for both the comedy and drama. The supporting cast hold their own but never have much screen time enough to really show much worth mentioning, although Staunton does share some rather touching scenes with Meaney that really brings out the best of her abilities, along with Meaney's softer side.
In the end I found 'Three and Out' to be a highly moving, compelling and original piece of comedic drama. There are low points here and there but thankfully they never distract or take too much away from the entire experience which is for the most part, well developed and realistically entertaining. With terrific performances, down to earth characterisation that constantly feels familiar, and an entertaining, refreshingly dark plot, the film is certainly not without its highlights. If ever there was a misunderstood film of this year, this would probably share the top spot with 'The Good Night'. Regardless, 'Three and Out' is well worth your attention if you like your comedy black and your drama relevant; a solid piece of British film-making.
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