So predictable and disjointed that it is often bland, "The Run of the Country" has its heart in the right place but never manages to rise above a cliche-ridden screenplay (by Shane Connaughton, adapting his own novel).
The film is set against ongoing turmoil in Ireland and seems to exist in a generic vacuum of time, with only a few hints that reveal the modern-day setting. This is an intriguing device by director Peter Yates ("Breaking Away," "Bullitt"), as it speaks to Ireland's divisive troubles having plagued the country for far too many decades.
But in the context of "The Run of the Country," all of this merely hovers as a backdrop, while the film is more interested in a conventional coming-of-age yarn.
The focus is 18-year-old Danny (Matt Keeslar), a bookish, sensitive lad who would like to escape the dreary existence of his rural village but who is too afraid of life to take any chances or invite radical change.
As the film begins, Danny's mother, with whom he was very close, has just died. And Danny has trouble communicating with his bombastic, insensitive father, the local police sergeant (Albert Finney, who has played this kind of character a few too many times).
So, Danny escapes by moving in with his best friend, a wild-eyed, big-talking, unwashed farmer named Prunty (Anthony Brophy, in a hilariously vulgar, scene-stealing performance), who lives with his mother.
But the turning point for Danny comes when he falls for bright, feisty Annagh Lee (Victoria Smurfit), the daughter of a wealthy family that lives over the northern border.
Prunty and Annagh open Danny's eyes to the unresolved conflicts in his country, but the film is content to dwell largely on less interesting story elements, as when Annagh finds she is pregnant and announces that she wants an abortion, shocking everyone around her.
The film is at its best with a series of smaller, truthful moments that connect with the beautiful location work and the cast's uniformly fine performances. Unfortunately, they do not add up to a satisfying whole.
"The Run of the Country" is rated R for violence, sex, nudity, profanity and vulgarity.
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