"Keane", the new independent film from writer - director Lodge Kerrigan, features an intense, interesting performance from Damian Lewis.
William Keane (Damian Lewis) wanders around the New York Port Authority Bus Station looking for his daughter. Mumbling and murmuring to himself, he intently searches for the girl he apparently lost some months ago. Exhausted and frustrated, he returns to his hotel/ apartment and finds he has been locked out. After paying for another week, he falls into a fitful sleep. The next day, the search continues as he deals with his apparent mental illness, his loneliness and his general sense of drift. The next day, returning to the apartment / hotel, he overhears Lynn (Amy Ryan) fighting with the front desk clerk. Lynn quickly takes Kira (Abigail Breslin), her child, back to their apartment. Soon, Keane and Lynn form a friendship, looking out for each other, in a way.
"Keane" is a very intense film for many reasons, but the most predominant is the camera work. The camera follows Lewis' every move as he portrays the character. Usually sitting just behind his shoulder, we become an active participant in Keane's life as he struggles with the unraveling strands, trying to hold everything together. Lewis makes the character's journey believable as we watch from such a close proximity. This isn't the type of performance where the actor engages in long monologues describing his feelings and emotions. As we witness his struggles, we learn little things along the way, things which help to make Keane an even more believable character. In his dealings with the hotel desk clerk, he asks if he can cash a check to pay for the room. Pulling the check out, the clerk looks at it and remarks "You're disabled?" Throughout the journey, we learn more about the disappearance of his daughter. As we get to know more about Keane, we have to wonder if he ever even had a daughter. He certainly seems to believe he did, but doubt begins to seep in based on his actions and his interactions with others.
After he meets Kira and Lynn, we see a flipside of living in such a place. Lynn is a mother with a small child, living in the apartment/ hotel until her husband can get things "settled" where he is and they can join him. During the day, Kira goes to school while Lynn works at a local diner. It is a hard life, made all the more difficult by the bus system they must rely on. Lynn is initially weary of Keane, but as she gets to know him, she opens up more. Kira is a little more hesitant, growing used to Keane in little doses. Lynn asks Keane to pick Kira up at school and to watch her for the afternoon, so she can take care of some business. As they are enjoying a lunch from McDonald's, she says "Are you going to be my mommy's new boyfriend?" This simple question raises more questions about Lynn and her relationships, providing detail to her character.
Perhaps the best thing about the film is that we never really know everything about anyone. Think about the people you know. Do you know everything about them? Of course not. This makes the characters in "Keane" seem more life-like and real.
The relationship between Keane and Kira is very believable. Watching his relationship with the little girl, we realize Keane has been around kids before, placing more doubt on whether he had a daughter or not. As they spend more time together, Kira begins to feel comfortable around him, opening up to him, treating him as a friend. She comes to trust him, which may be a mistake.
But Kira doesn't recognize this, as she is a very young girl. Her mother, on the other hand, should recognize that perhaps Keane is not the best person to care for her child, as they have just met. Given her circumstances, struggling day to day, it is more understandable that she would come to depend on a seemingly normal person.
The final scene of "Keane" is very powerful. Mirroring the beginning, we get a fuller picture of what may have driven William to his current obsessions. Thankfully, the film leaves these conclusions a bit ambiguous, leaving our minds to fill in some of the blanks. Allowing our minds to come up with scarier, darker resolutions.
If "Independent Film" were a genre, "Keane" would be a sterling example. It has all the tell-tale, perhaps stereotypical, elements found in many independent films; loads of handheld camera work (I can't think of a single moment shot without a handheld camera, yet the film seems `normal' to the eye), relatively few characters, natural, low cost locations, involving, yet small-in-scope story. Some people may be driven mad by all of these elements. Others will embrace them wholeheartedly. If you aren't sure which type of person you are, give it a try.
"Keane" is worthy of a DVD rental.