While pulling one’s car off a road without departing the vehicle seems to have been more often than not associated with a lovers’ lane interlude in movies, that tradition may have become radically revamped these days in the midst of the Great Recession, as a last resort interior space to simply live in. Which just happens to be the predicament of the new and different 21st century protagonist in Irish director Darragh Byrne’s dramatic film feature debut about homelessness on wheels, Parked.
Colm Meaney stars in Parked as Fred, a clock repairman just returned from England to his native Dublin, presumably now jobless and looking for work in the city he originally left for that very same reason. Demoralized and psychologically withdrawn, the middle aged recluse begins living in his car in a parking lot as an expedient measure, after facing the typical bureaucratic reaction when applying for shelter. Which is incredulously, that you’re not eligible for housing if you don’t have a verifiable home address in the first place.
But Fred’s relative privacy if not comfort, is abruptly disturbed when a homeless youth likewise living in his car, takes up similar residency in a nearby parking space in the lot. The compulsively chatty Cathal (Colin Morgan)is as uncomfortable with isolation as Fred is disturbed by the lack of it, but he soon wears down the older man’s resistance to forge an odd couple friendship. Though Fred’s alarming discovery that Cathal is a junkie whose unsavory drug dealer suppliers turn up occasionally to beat him viciously for unpaid debts, both repels and arouses within himself an untapped emotional reservoir of protective paternal impulses.
There are delicately conveyed, wordless moments exploring Fred’s solemn challenges to the humiliations of difficult survival surrounded by an uncaring reality. As he goes about salvaging whatever dignity and pride he can summon in performing routine tasks out of his car, like preparing meals, shaving and reading. And rendering his dire situation somehow a little more cheerful than it actually is, when for instance tending affectionately to a favorite plant soaking in the sun up against the car window.
But steering this narrative vehicle off course, is a story full of far fetched elements that opt for contrived, often way too coincidental shortcuts. And upstaging the striking imagery, which in contrast takes its time lyrically breezing through. Such as a predictable romance involving Finnish immigrant pianist Juliana (Milka Ahlroth), who always seems to materialize just in time all around town when the filmmaker is in need of a some sparks to fly for Fred. And with Fred himself single-handedly overpowering and driving off the entire gang of thugs terrorizing and nearly killing Cathal, despite being seriously over the hill and out of shape.
All of which tends to infuse Parked with the visceral impact of raw truth when it’s a question of Meaney’s destitute main character on the inside looking out at a callous world. But as for the outside looking in director’s point of view, there’s a distinct sense of a second hand experience only heard about from a comfortable distance, than in any way felt or endured.
2 1/2 stars
To see the trailer of Parked: