Thursday, October 18, 2012

What Richard Did? Fiction vs Fact!

"Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us".

So said Paul Theroux; and I guess my constant stream of thought during this movie rendered this statement to be somewhat true. The Lenny Abrahamson’s movie ‘What Richard Did?’ is loosely based on the novel ‘Bad Day in Blackrock’; whilst both claim to be fictional certain aspects of the story were inspired by news coverage of actual events. The actual events refer to the death of Brian Murphy outside of Anabel’s nightclub in Dublin which involved three former Blackrock College students.

The movie captures the very essence of the life of affluent South Dubliners at that moment in time, and the factors which can contribute to an episode like this unraveling. The stereotypical Volkswagen Golf driving, self-absorbed, hedonistic, rugby playing, D4 head quickly emerges, and the main character Richard Karlsen (played by Jack Reynor) embodies each one of these traits superbly. Richard utilises these traits to woo the girlfriend of a less privileged eighteen year old Conor, and like all D4 charmers, it works. However, despite the commencement of a relationship with Conor’s former flame, Lara, Richard is somewhat insecure. Insecurities can take hold in a way like no others when you’re young and naive, and you apply a great weight to the little things in life; failing to see they are mere stages of adolescence. Richard’s insecurities were too great, his jealousy was immense, and the sheer notion of Lara interacting with Conor ignited anger inside him. After a house party, a drunken altercation occurs in the driveway of the house between Richard and his mates, setting on Conor. The altercation ends with Richard casting one final blow to Conor’s head. To Richard and his crew, it appeared that Conor got up and staggered off, but news filters through the air waves the following morning that a teenager died outside the aforementioned house party the night before. Richard panics.

At the risk of divulging too much, I will not disclose or spoil for you how the story plays out.
But we all are aware of how the true story unraveled.

I for one went into this movie wondering how Abrahamson would deal with the resulting court case in which the nation felt cemented the theory that, the rich take care of their own. In the end you are left feeling like a mere observer into the life of the affluent, and the fragility of life, how one nano second, one fit of rage, can change life as you know it for good. Private schooling and a privileged upbringing cannot alter one’s behaviour. The privileged lifestyle whilst it may remain in the aftermath of such an event cannot quench the mental struggle that you can only hope the perpetrators face every day of their lives.

It is a thoroughly enjoyable movie – an excellent Irish production, it may be somewhat fictional, but you cannot direct your thoughts away from the true story which this movie shadows, its origins are inescapable.  

When I think of this case I think of Brian Murphy, a youngster, who died at the hands of a vicious unnecessary assault, a life wasted; a life for which no one was truly held responsible for ending – I’m angered. There was no justice for the less affluent youngster, yet ‘the money can buy society’ from which the accused hailed from, the guys who caused this heinous assault, now roam the streets freely.

Yet, on watching this film, strangely, I find myself feeling some remorse towards Richard, the perpetrator. We see the film through his eyes, What Richard Did; how one nano second can tear your life apart, one foolish fit of rage over something so frivolous. We don’t however see the aftermath or the anguish faced on a daily basis by the Murphy family so for that reason we are drawn to Richard’s plight.  

As I alluded to earlier in this passage ‘Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us’.

But as this was a fictional tale based on a true event, both in fiction and in reality Conor (Brian Murphy) never got a second chance that life so cruelly denied him.

For Richard Karlsen, fiction gave him a second chance; normality resumes and life continues with Semester 1 in UCD.  

For the real life Richard Karlsen, his name was dragged through the media (and rightfully so) yet the charge for manslaughter was quashed. He may be free but he’ll never get a second chance to emerge from Anabel’s nightclub and make the decision not to have dealt that final blow resulting in the untimely and necessary death of Brian Murphy. He’ll never get a second chance to walk away from that shameful situation. His name will forever be linked to this case.

That’s the beauty of fiction, it offers characters hope and gives them that second chance. Real life however isn’t that considerate..... it’s a one way ticket, no return fares, no second chances!

 The Forgotten Irish Graduate, 19th October 2012