Despite seemingly set in Northern Ireland, this film does not overflow with words in the way people from that country often can. Instead the film focuses very much on the experience, on letting us into the main character's head. It does this in a plot that focuses on a teenage boy faced with a dying parent. It is a plot that is not unusual, but often it is one that short film can use to provide plenty of showy performances in the delivery, with lots of dialogue and tears. North is much better than that in doing much less on the surface.
We don't know much about the nature of the illness of the mother, beyond that it is fatal; nor do we have much focus or debate about the euthanasia part of the story, instead it is focused on a boy overcoming his denial (and selfishness) to be there for his mother and focus on what she needs. I can't imagine the situation myself, but the film succeeds in making me understand it a bit through Aaron. His rage, his feeling of exclusion from the reality others are dealing with, but also his acceptance in the end of what is happening. Each part of this is played out well, with deft touches and allowing the cast to do good work. While we focus on Aaron, I liked that the film did not split the adult/child line totally, and used Richard's reaction not Aaron's outburst to show that everyone is struggling whether they are adult or not.
Performances are all impressive, but particularly Keoghan in the lead as he does so much with his body, face, tone etc that the dialogue doesn't feed him. Beyond him McAleer and McCourt were both excellent in their key moments. Sheerin's writing and direction makes it all work together, making sure his cast have everything they need, and providing a slow and well-framed pace to the drama. It isn't full of fireworks or showboating, but it is rewarding and subtle in what it does.
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