The Limit Of
3.0Overall Score

The Limit Of (Ireland / 15A / 93 mins)

 

In short: Good investment

 

Directed by Alan Mulligan. Starring Laurence O’Fuarain, Sarah Carroll, Sonya O’Donoghue.   

 

The Plot: At the tail-end of the recession, James (Laurence O’Fuarain) lives a very comfortable life. He’s a Dublin banker who has a nice apartment and is going places in his job. That mostly involves telling customers in an emotionless manner that their loans have been denied. His co-worker Alison (Sarah Carroll) has been turned down for a promotion, her boss flatly telling her that she lacks killer instinct – the kind that James has in spades. When James’ mother has a stroke due to a repossession letter issued by his bank, he realises the human cost of his job – something which he previously shut out. He sets out to gain revenge on the bank, which puts him on a collision course with Alison…

 

The Verdict: Alan Mulligan worked as a finance manager in a bank for many years, but decided to shift careers and move into the (possibly?) equally cut-throat world of low-budget filmmaking in Ireland. Feeding off his own experiences, he’s written a workplace drama with thriller overtones and directed it as his feature debut The Limit Of. It’s an ambitious effort, which benefits greatly from an intriguing morality play premise, insider gossip and two tightly-wound performances from his lead actors Laurence O’Fuarain and Sarah Carroll. At its core though is a singular portrait of a comfortable man confronted with the uncomfortable cost of his workplace behaviour and the soul-destroying actions of his employer.

Mulligan’s script is sharp enough to make the world of banking seductive and shrouded in secretive practices. An early scene features one of James’ colleagues going full Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross in how to sell life assurance to potential customers. You wouldn’t want to buy life assurance from that guy. Mulligan’s script mainly focuses on the contrasting personalities of James and Alison. James being the lone wolf who operates on his own rules, Alison the go-getter who isn’t ruthless enough to get what she really wants. A smouldering attraction between them is wisely held at bay when the two face off over a potentially explosive situation instigated by James.

Up to that point in the film, Mulligan was doing well in drawing the audience into his involving story. A third act lurch into more obvious thriller territory is mis-judged, as it pushes The Limit Of… credibility? We’re never quite sure what James is capable of. Is he just a controlling man who always gets what he wants? Or is there something more sinister to him? Mulligan doesn’t quite know how to pin his lead character down. The same with Alison, who becomes too compliant and accepting of her newfound situation. Surely she should try everything in her power to get out of it, rather than play along? That could be put down to first-time director nerves in not rounding out his characters properly. They’re still interesting characters though and keep the plot ticking over.

There are grander themes being hinted at in the film, but the focus is narrowed down – perhaps due to budgetary restraints. However, for a first feature it shows definite promise for Mulligan. He knows how to direct actors and control their performances. He also shoots Dublin with an eye for detail, his camera sweeping over the city lights at night. The Limit Of was stuck in distribution limbo for several years, but we can be thankful that it’s finally moved out of film festival screenings and into a proper release. It’s a good local investment which yields a narratively rich return.

 

Rating: 3 / 5

 

Review by Gareth O’Connor

The Limit Of (Ireland / 15A / 93 mins)

 

In short: Good investment

 

Directed by Alan Mulligan. Starring Laurence O’Fuarain, Sarah Carroll, Sonya O’Donoghue.   

 

The Plot: At the tail-end of the recession, James (Laurence O’Fuarain) lives a very comfortable life. He’s a Dublin banker who has a nice apartment and is going places in his job. That mostly involves telling customers in an emotionless manner that their loans have been denied. His co-worker Alison (Sarah Carroll) has been turned down for a promotion, her boss flatly telling her that she lacks killer instinct – the kind that James has in spades. When James’ mother has a stroke due to a repossession letter issued by his bank, he realises the human cost of his job – something which he previously shut out. He sets out to gain revenge on the bank, which puts him on a collision course with Alison…

 

The Verdict: Alan Mulligan worked as a finance manager in a bank for many years, but decided to shift careers and move into the (possibly?) equally cut-throat world of low-budget filmmaking in Ireland. Feeding off his own experiences, he’s written a workplace drama with thriller overtones and directed it as his feature debut The Limit Of. It’s an ambitious effort, which benefits greatly from an intriguing morality play premise, insider gossip and two tightly-wound performances from his lead actors Laurence O’Fuarain and Sarah Carroll. At its core though is a singular portrait of a comfortable man confronted with the uncomfortable cost of his workplace behaviour and the soul-destroying actions of his employer.

Mulligan’s script is sharp enough to make the world of banking seductive and shrouded in secretive practices. An early scene features one of James’ colleagues going full Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross in how to sell life assurance to potential customers. You wouldn’t want to buy life assurance from that guy. Mulligan’s script mainly focuses on the contrasting personalities of James and Alison. James being the lone wolf who operates on his own rules, Alison the go-getter who isn’t ruthless enough to get what she really wants. A smouldering attraction between them is wisely held at bay when the two face off over a potentially explosive situation instigated by James.

Up to that point in the film, Mulligan was doing well in drawing the audience into his involving story. A third act lurch into more obvious thriller territory is mis-judged, as it pushes The Limit Of… credibility? We’re never quite sure what James is capable of. Is he just a controlling man who always gets what he wants? Or is there something more sinister to him? Mulligan doesn’t quite know how to pin his lead character down. The same with Alison, who becomes too compliant and accepting of her newfound situation. Surely she should try everything in her power to get out of it, rather than play along? That could be put down to first-time director nerves in not rounding out his characters properly. They’re still interesting characters though and keep the plot ticking over.

There are grander themes being hinted at in the film, but the focus is narrowed down – perhaps due to budgetary restraints. However, for a first feature it shows definite promise for Mulligan. He knows how to direct actors and control their performances. He also shoots Dublin with an eye for detail, his camera sweeping over the city lights at night. The Limit Of was stuck in distribution limbo for several years, but we can be thankful that it’s finally moved out of film festival screenings and into a proper release. It’s a good local investment which yields a narratively rich return.

 

Rating: 3 / 5

 

Review by Gareth O’Connor