Tragi-comedy from the margins of contemporary Irish life. Regarded by his neighbors as a harmless misfit, eliciting idle kindness, benign tolerance and occasional abuse, Josie has spent all his adult life as the caretaker of a crumbling petrol station on the outskirts of a small town in the mid-west of Ireland. He is limited, lonely, yet relentlessly optimistic and, in his own peculiar way, happy. But then over the course of a summer, Josie's world shifts. A teenager, David, comes to work with him. David likes him. They open up to each other and suddenly the lonely adult is drinking cans down at the railway tracks with the local kids. He is awakened to needs in himself that have never been met. And Carmel, from the local shop, who has always been kind to him, stirs feelings within him that he struggles to name. And then one thoughtless moment unravels the threads of faltering friendship. Events spiral. Josie's life is changed, forever.Written by
Black Velvet Band
[played by the musicians in the pub] See more »
A man who may understand more than he wants to
Josie has been assigned the roles in life of pumping petrol and being the village idiot. He qualifies for the former role by being loyal to his boss, diligent about his work tasks, and friendly to the customers. He qualifies for the latter role because of some sort of mild mental disability that makes him slow to process ideas and not too good at standing up for himself. In fact he's not that stupid - one gets the impression that he was a slow child whom people got into the habit of talking down to, but that he understands more than other people acknowledge or that he even acknowledges himself.
People like Josie are litmus tests for distinguishing bullies from people who are fundamentally decent. The bullies, both teenagers and adults, treat him as if he doesn't even understand the cruel remarks they direct towards him. The people of conscience don't mock him because they know he can't respond in kind, and they recognise that he is capable of being hurt. However their kindness can only go so far: they can't engage with Josie as equals, they can't talk to him about relationships or children or careers, and the weather and the news of the town provide only a minute or two of conversational material.
Even more uncomfortable to watch than his treatment by the bullies is the use people make of him as a confidant of last resort. They unburden their hearts to him in the assumption that he has nothing better to do than listen to them, and expecting from him the kind of unconditional sympathy one would get from a pet dog. There is no reciprocation, nobody asks him how he is getting on, so Josie's unhappiness remains unarticulated beneath the conventional cheeriness that he presents to the world and the world expects of him.
The action of this slow moving film can be said to be driven by the intrusions of the wider world into a rural community. Josie's livelihood is threatened by economic development, and his role as the village idiot is threatened, if that's an appropriate word, by the dilution of the community with "blow ins". Being a village idiot is a cruel and marginal existence for Josie, but it does mean that when he takes a wrong turn, people have a ready explanation for his actions, and can be quite tactful and kind in nudging him back in the right direction. When the village fills up with more and more people who haven't known Josie since birth, his behaviour is in danger of being interpreted in a different way.
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