Calm with Horses Drama

Redemption Song: A TIFF Review of ‘Calm with Horses’

September 21, 2019Ferdosa Abdi

Nick Rowland's Calm With Horses is a sobering tale of an ex-boxer who has lost his way. Set against the backdrop of the darkest parts of rural Ireland, the story follows our protagonist, who must confront his loyalties to an Irish gang and his love for his family.

A former boxer who was forced to retire after an incident in the ring, Douglas "Arm" Armstrong (Cosmo Jarvis) is recruited by Dympna (Barry Keoghan) to join the Devers gang, who promise to treat him like family. However, after being forced to make a hard choice, Arm must reevaluate who his real family is, and who he wants to be. This film is a wonderful showcase for Rowland's directorial talents, as he is able to convey so much with very little actually happening on screen. It is a slow-burn, but he fills the moments with some sharp writing and wonderful performances — especially from Jarvis who hasn't gotten an opportunity to prove his acting prowess quite like this before.

Ultimately, Calm With Horses is about redemption, but it's wrought with sorrow. Jarvis is astonishingly good at balancing Arm's puppy-like behavior and hopefulness with the brutish beast that lurks beneath, and his performance is what makes the movie exceptional. It is a difficult watch, but it is rewarding, as is the case with any well-crafted film.

Calm with Horses makes its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 41 min.

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