The Good Man

A title as naive as "The Good Man" is a virtual neon sign flashing "Moral Ambiguities to Follow," but it still won't prepare auds for the haunting upshot of Phil Harrison's low-budget, highly idealistic urban parable.

With:
With: Aidan Gillen, Thabang Sidloyi, Kelly Campbell, Lunathi Mampofu, Thomas Gumede. (English, Xhosa dialogue)

A title as naive as “The Good Man” is a virtual neon sign flashing “Moral Ambiguities to Follow,” but it still won’t prepare auds for the haunting upshot of Phil Harrison’s low-budget, highly idealistic urban parable. Daring in its structure and disquieting in its message, the pic unfolds parallel stories in Belfast and South Africa, posing a multitude of moral questions that lead viewers to a collision with their own conscience. Word of mouth and a central performance by the increasingly ubiquitous Aidan Gillen (“Game of Thrones,” “The Dark Knight Rises”) could help “Man” find a modest arthouse niche.

In his feature debut, writer-director Harrison is up to a kind of sobering mischief. Who — and what — is a good man? The ostensible title character, Michael (Gillen), is an upwardly mobile Belfast banker with a beautiful young wife (Kelly Campbell), a child and, suddenly, a moral disaster on his hands. Leaving a pub one night, he steals another man’s cab, and when the offended party gives chase, he’s struck and killed by an oncoming car. Michael, watching from the receding vantage point of the purloined cab, is completely unnerved, wracked with guilt and uncertain what to do. He confides in no one, his work suffers and his wife is at her wits’ end.

Meanwhile, in a South African township, Sifiso (Thabang Sidloyi), a lanky student with a budding political conscience, grapples with the question of why his country, decades into its independence, is a corrupt hellhole, and what exactly constitutes righteous behavior. He joins activists in his impoverished Cape Town settlement in “diverting” electricity to homes in need, which the government sees as stealing; he fights schoolyard bullies in defense of the lovely Katelho (Lunathi Mampofu) and suffers for it.

Harrison sets everything up in such a fashion that one expects the two stories will intersect in cliched fashion, with Michael perhaps atoning for his sins in a manner that benefits young Sifiso. But that’s only partly true, as the scope of Harrison’s story reaches far beyond the relatively banal tale of a stolen cab and a hit-and-run. Without giving too much away, “The Good Man” turns out to be about post-colonialism, liberal cluelessness, cloistered worldviews, First World patriarchy, Third World development and the complexities of a global economy in which good and bad become subjective matters. Michael may indeed be a good man, simply because he wants to be, but nothing here is simple, and the film drives that home in a way that leaves the viewer with a distinct sense of foreboding.

Production values are tops, notably the shooting in Africa (by co-lenser Roy Zetisky), which is both intimate and fluid in capturing the tensions of a township and its people, and the editing of Paul Speirs and Helen Sheridan, melding two dissimilar stories into a very coherent whole.

The Good Man

Ireland-U.K.-South Africa

Production: A Northern Ireland Screen and Irish Film Board presentation of a Manifesto Films production in association with Jet Black Entertainment and Treasure Entertainment. Produced by Susan Picken, Roy Zetisky, Rebecca O'Flanagan. Executive producer, Phil Harrison. Directed, written by Phil Harrison.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, 35mm/HD), Angus Mitchell, Roy Zetisky; editor, Paul Speirs, Helen Sheridan; music, Tim Millen; sound, Ritchie Naughton; line producer, Vuks Ngcingwana; associate producers, Susana Kennedy, Colin Cash, Jude Sharvin; casting, Sharvin, Sakhumzi Mati. Reviewed at Galway Film Fleadh, July 12, 2012. Running time: 74 MIN.

With: With: Aidan Gillen, Thabang Sidloyi, Kelly Campbell, Lunathi Mampofu, Thomas Gumede. (English, Xhosa dialogue)

More Film

  • Taraji P Henson Sam Rockwell

    Taraji P. Henson-Sam Rockwell Drama 'Best of Enemies' Bought by STX

    A title as naive as “The Good Man” is a virtual neon sign flashing “Moral Ambiguities to Follow,” but it still won’t prepare auds for the haunting upshot of Phil Harrison’s low-budget, highly idealistic urban parable. Daring in its structure and disquieting in its message, the pic unfolds parallel stories in Belfast and South Africa, […]

  • Harrison Ford plane incident

    Harrison Ford Eyes 'Call of the Wild' (EXCLUSIVE)

    A title as naive as “The Good Man” is a virtual neon sign flashing “Moral Ambiguities to Follow,” but it still won’t prepare auds for the haunting upshot of Phil Harrison’s low-budget, highly idealistic urban parable. Daring in its structure and disquieting in its message, the pic unfolds parallel stories in Belfast and South Africa, […]

  • Matthew Rhys

    Matthew Rhys to Co-Star With Tom Hanks in Mr. Rogers Film 'You Are My Friend' (EXCLUSIVE)

    A title as naive as “The Good Man” is a virtual neon sign flashing “Moral Ambiguities to Follow,” but it still won’t prepare auds for the haunting upshot of Phil Harrison’s low-budget, highly idealistic urban parable. Daring in its structure and disquieting in its message, the pic unfolds parallel stories in Belfast and South Africa, […]

  • San Diego Comic Con Preview 2017

    Variety Announces Comic-Con Studio and Kick-Off Party With YouTube

    A title as naive as “The Good Man” is a virtual neon sign flashing “Moral Ambiguities to Follow,” but it still won’t prepare auds for the haunting upshot of Phil Harrison’s low-budget, highly idealistic urban parable. Daring in its structure and disquieting in its message, the pic unfolds parallel stories in Belfast and South Africa, […]

  • Israeli Film Industry Furious Over Proposed

    Israeli Film Industry Furious Over Proposed Funding Changes

    A title as naive as “The Good Man” is a virtual neon sign flashing “Moral Ambiguities to Follow,” but it still won’t prepare auds for the haunting upshot of Phil Harrison’s low-budget, highly idealistic urban parable. Daring in its structure and disquieting in its message, the pic unfolds parallel stories in Belfast and South Africa, […]

  • Yellow Veil Pictures Launches, Buys German

    Yellow Veil Pictures Launches, Buys German Horror Movie 'Luz' (EXCLUSIVE)

    A title as naive as “The Good Man” is a virtual neon sign flashing “Moral Ambiguities to Follow,” but it still won’t prepare auds for the haunting upshot of Phil Harrison’s low-budget, highly idealistic urban parable. Daring in its structure and disquieting in its message, the pic unfolds parallel stories in Belfast and South Africa, […]

  • ‘On the Basis of Sex’ Trailer:

    Felicity Jones Channels Young Ruth Bader Ginsburg in First 'On the Basis of Sex' Trailer

    A title as naive as “The Good Man” is a virtual neon sign flashing “Moral Ambiguities to Follow,” but it still won’t prepare auds for the haunting upshot of Phil Harrison’s low-budget, highly idealistic urban parable. Daring in its structure and disquieting in its message, the pic unfolds parallel stories in Belfast and South Africa, […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content