A dark but charming drama, Sensation starts off strong before losing its way in the last third. This is definitely Domhall Gleeson’s (son of Brendan) best performance to date, and he proves that he has much of his father’s talent.
The film starts with a sharp jolt as we witness farmer’s son Donal (Gleeson) attempt to masturbate in a field only to be put off by the surrounding sheep. He then returns home to discover his father dead in his stair lift and awkwardly brings him down. This kind of uncomfortable humour fills the first half of the narrative, as Donal comes to grip with living alone before finding company in the shape of Kim (Luanne Gordon), a lady of the night.
But this certainly isn’t Pretty Woman as the two go into business together and discover that the divide between work and pleasure can’t be crossed. It is around this point that the strong writing of the first half drifts away and the off-beat tone seems to have been lost. Similarly Donal’s character development seems to move too fast and makes very little sense. By the end it is difficult to know what exactly Director Tom Hall wanted to achieve.
This aside there are some great performances especially from the two leads. Gleeson brings the much needed subtlety for such an introverted role, making such an otherwise oddball character likeable and relatable. Similarly the relatively unknown Gordon plays off of Gleeson perfectly, acting out a part which is much more than the stereotypical ‘tart with a heart’.
The narrative raises many questions about prejudice and preconceptions surrounding the sex industry but manages to avoid the regular clichés and cheap jokes. Instead much of the quirky comedy sprouts from Donal’s characterisation and uncomfortable mannerisms. On several occasions it is difficult to know whether to laugh or be shocked especially in one scene concerning a litter of kittens.
Overall Sensation is an off-kilter darkly comic drama which sadly loses its gusto before the final credits.
Out on DVD from April 9th