When Brendan Met Trudy
review by Gregory Avery, 9 March 2001

If the title, When Brendan Met Sally, sounds familiar, it's supposed to. Brendan (Peter McDonald) -- who stares dreamily, distractedly out the window of the Dublin classroom where he teaches (he seems to have given up on making any  sort of impact on the students, and the students feel likewise) -- has two abiding passions in his life: singing (he sings baritone in the church choir, and listens to recordings of the great Irish singer John McCormack), and the movies. Watching John Wayne sweep Maureen O'Hara into his arms in The Quiet Man, Brendan wonders aloud, "How does he do it?" (Well, because John Ford told him to, but that's not the point.)

Into his life comes Trudy (Flora Montgomery), who flashes her eyes at him, makes some acerbic remarks ("I'd say you were a forceps birth, Were ya?"), and sweeps him into a whirlwind romance. Trudy is the type of free-spirited, forthright, and shrewd girl who lives in the moment and does as she pleases (even if that means standing Brendan up for a date because, she later reveals, she simply "felt" like it). She also mysteriously disappears for hours in the middle of the night, going off to do -- something. But it's the element of ambiguity (and, it must be said, dread) that keeps Brendan intrigued, leading him to get involved with protest clashes with the police, and to sing Iggy Pop's The Passenger in front of his class room students to show that "there is nothing 'un-cool' about a formally-trained voice". ("He's beginning to scare me, now," whispers one of the boys in class after this demonstration.)

The picture, directed by Kieron J. Walsh and written by Roddy Doyle (his first original screenplay), is, as you may have gathered, pleasantly-enough done, and it's well acted (along with the two leads, there is also a wonderfully funny one-scene bit by Barry Cassin, as the headmaster who calls Brendan into his office at one point), but it also seems to just barely hang together. There are loads of film references (some of them to fictional films), especially to Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless: at one point, Brendan and Trudy even turn into Belmondo and Jean Seberg in the film, and go on a spree. But while Trudy falls, rather touchingly, in love with Brendan when she first hears him sing, and Brendan, in turn, loses much of his shyness and becomes more of his own person after being around Trudy, there really doesn't seem to be any reason for these two people to be together. Trudy breaks-up with Brendan over reasons which are capricious but are also petty, and she agrees to take Brendan back only after he does something pretty decrepit. Brendan's sudden concern over the welfare of his students, regarding some new computers which are to be installed at the school where he works, seems to come out of nowhere, particularly after the open scorn which they have shown towards him. And the final part of the story, which ends up with Trudy taking the fall for something concocted by Brendan (it's the ending of Breathless in reverse), just doesn't seem convincing. (Unless Trudy is awfully more self-sacrificing than we were lead to believe.)

There's a very good scene in the film in which Brendan, walking out of a cinema with Trudy, talks about what he thought about the film they just saw by talking about how it was put together: he doesn't say what he felt towards the film while watching it. Audiences may find this picture to be pleasing enough, even if it still doesn't add up in the end.

Directed by:
Kieron J. Walsh

Starring:
Peter McDonald
Flora Montgomery
Marie Mullen
Pauline McLynn
Maynard Eziashi
Barry Cassin

Written by:
Roddy Doyle

Rated:
NR
This film has not
yet been rated.

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