Set in suburban Dublin in the waning days of the late-’70s punk subculture, “The Last Bus Home” inevitably recalls “The Commitments” in its saga of Irish working-class youth struggling to make it in the music business and keep their friendship intact in the process. While the writing lacks sharpness and emotional resonance, first-time feature director Johnny Gogan brings some energy and edge to the raw drama that should help secure television and minor fest bookings.
In an almost deserted neighborhood on the day of the Pope’s 1979 visit to Dublin, would-be entrepreneur Reena (Annie Ryan) meets and beds aspiring rocker Jessop (Brian O’Byrne). Together with drummer Petie (John Cronin) and bass player Joe (Barry Comerford), they form the Dead Patriots.
After three years of playing free gigs and experimenting to find the right style, they begin to establish a name for themselves. But the foundations of their success begin to crumble when issues of trust, openness and commitment are questioned. Petie secretly conducts a romance with slick solo performer Billy (Anthony Brophy), but is afraid to come out to Jessop. When he learns of the affair, Jessop is resentful of Reena for keeping it from him. He also is suspicious of her plans for a record deal and a move to London.
A fight just prior to a gig leaves Jessop feeling threatened about his position within the band he helped create. He reacts by outing Petie onstage. The resulting tragedy creates a bitter split between Jessop and Reena that takes 10 years to heal.
The conflicts in Gogan’s script are a little too muddy to build sufficient dramatic momentum. Certain crucial plot components, such as Reena and Jessop’s relationship and Petie’s coming to terms with being gay, are not given the necessary weight to justify the frequent eruptions of jealousy, rage and anxiety. The cast, however, provides some of the grit missing in the writing, and the low-budget production’s grungy look suits the tone of the drama.