Running Time: 93 minutes
UK Certificate: 15
Country: Ireland, United Kingdom
Eddie Harris (John Lynch) is a big-hearted, optimistic child trapped in an adult's body, and he is never happier than when he is playing with his own two young children, Katie (Lauren Crook) and Billy (Ben Thompson). Yet when a picture which Katie has drawn of one of Eddie's bathtime games is misconstrued by a schoolteacher, social services are called in, and before Eddie quite realises what is happening he finds himself excluded from access to his children, shunned by his beloved wife Jeanie (Geraldine Somerville), and subject to a nasty campaign of threats and sabotage from his work colleagues. Isolated and desperate, Eddie sneaks his children (and one of their friends) out of their school to join him on an unauthorised excursion to the Riviera of North Wales, in the hope that he can renew, if only for a day, his past happiness with them.
Watching 'Re-Inventing Eddie' is, to put it mildly, a strange experience. Cleverly adapted by Jim Doyle and Ian Brady from 'One Fine Day', Dennis Lumborg's award-winning one-man stage monologue, the film 'reinvents' the original's story by presenting it visually on screen, while still making it clear from the outset that Eddie is in the driver's seat when it comes to the narrative (if perhaps not when it comes to his life) by having him frequently speak directly to camera. Such is the charm of this cheeky chappie as he races home on his motorbike all wide-eyed with love of life, so blithe is his assertion that “legit is just a state of mind” (as he steals his best friend's car to abduct his own children), that it is easy to be beguiled into imagining that he is a victim of circumstance who takes on the injustices of the system. Yet in fact social services and the police behave with impeccable tact, Eddie's problems are largely of his own making, and his behaviour shifts rapi dly from lovably eccentric into plain unhinged.
Writer/director Jim Doyle conveys this disconcerting rift between reality and Eddie's perception of it by presenting a plot reminiscent of Ken Loach's relentlessly downbeat 'Ladybird Ladybird', but framing it as though it were a manic feelgood comedy. The effect is best summed up by the final scene, in which Eddie joyously declares “It doesn't get much better than this”, as the camera pulls out to reveal a drab landscape of chemical factories beneath a darkening sky. Even the decision to shoot everything in scope, unusual for a British drama, creates an apt reflection of Eddie's larger-than-life outlook – as well as some unexpectedly stunning tableaux of Manchester's canals.
Exploiting a climate of hysteria and paranoia about child abuse, 'Re-Inventing Eddie' shows what devastating effects a false accusation can have on a family – but at the same time, by having a narrator who is so patently unreliable, it leaves open the haunting possibility that there might be some substance to the accusation after all, and that the nice-guy naïveté which Eddie exhibits might just be part of his own insidiously manipulative reinvention.
It's Got: A captivating central performance by John Lynch, and stunning scope cinematography.
It Needs: Not to be dismissed too quickly as the light British comedy that it seems to be.
Alternatives:Eveline, Ladybird ladybird, Shadow of a Doubt
This life-affirming comedy about accusations of paedophilia may seem sweet, but it leaves a very odd aftertaste.