THE TRUTH COMMISSIONER (Ireland/12A/102mins)
Directed by Declan Recks. Starring Roger Allam, Sean McGinley, Ian McElhinney, Barry Ward, Ian Beattie, Conleth Hill, Madeline Mantock.
THE PLOT: Arriving into Northern Ireland to chair the first-ever Commission For Truth And Reconcilliation, Henry Stanfield (Allam) has other concerns on his mind outside of peace, love and understanding between Protestants and Catholics. There’s the little matter of his adult daughter Emma (Hyde), and the fact that she has refused to talk to him for many years now. Having settled in Northern Ireland partly to get away from the man who she believes abandoned her and her mother, Emma is about to have a baby. It’s news to Henry, and when he finds that the men behind the men behind the wire threatening not only him but his family too should he push a little too hard for the actual truth, the pain and anguish felt by those standing before him in court daily hits home. Right to the heart of home.
THE VERDICT: Playing as both a political thriller and a ‘Lost In Translation’ mid-flight crisis, this earnest adaptation of David Parks’ earnest novel is one of those solid dramas that has all the signs of being designed and executed as primetime quality TV. And that’s because it was, this BBC commission’s jump to the big screen surprising director Declan Recks (‘Eden’, ‘The Clinic’) as much as everyone else involved.
Unsurprisingly, ‘The Truth Commissioner’’s big-screen adventure is a limited release one, being the kind of drama that will probably play better in the living room that the multiplex. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but, until that welcome rush of danger in the closing act arrives, there’s very little here that we haven’t seen before.
To the point that, one suspects Roger Allam actually travels to auditions now with his own attache case full of important political papers.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Paul Byrne

The Truth Commissioner
Review by Paul Byrne
3.0Solid Drama
  • filmbuff2011

    Films about The Troubles can either be incendiary like Hidden Agenda or be more muted think-pieces affairs like The Truth Commissioner. In truth though, The Truth Commissioner does ask some interesting questions – but doesn’t always answer them.

    Henry (Roger Allam) is a respected negotiator who has handled difficult peace processes in Libya and South Africa. But that’s nothing compared to the tangled web of lies, deeply buried secrets and recriminations in Northern Ireland’s fractious peace process. Arriving in Belfast and heading immediately to Stormont, he is to chair Northern Ireland’s Truth Commission, bringing to book a large number of cases stretching back over 30 years. He will allow mothers, sisters and family members to confront the alleged killers of their sons in the hope of reconciliation and healing. This brings him into conflict with Sinn Fein member and Minister Gilroy (Sean McGinley) and his wary handler Rafferty (Conleth Hill). There is a hidden secret that needs to be brought to the surface here. At the same time, Henry is trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter, who now lives in Belfast and has deeply-buried issues of her own…

    Declan Recks first feature since 2008’s Eden is a probing, moody fictional film. It’s based on the book of the same name by David Park and is adapted here by Eoin O’Callaghan. It may be fictional, but it also feels like it could be real. The plot was inspired by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to see if something similar could work in Northern Ireland. This also formed the basis of the 2009 film Five Minutes Of Heaven, which successfully managed to condense the entire conflict of The Troubles into the personal conflict of two men on different sides of the gun. The Truth Commissioner isn’t quite as successful though. The interplay between the various parties shies away from showing any real violence, making it one of the few films about The Troubles to get a surprising 12A rating. There’s also an unsatisfying conclusion, which wraps things up far too quickly given everything that has come before. It just doesn’t ring true.

    However, there’s still plenty of merit in this film. It’s well-acted by a familiar cast of Irish and British faces (look for two Game Of Thrones actors). Allam’s weary hangdog expression is a perfect fit for a man who won’t be moved or blackmailed by sinister external forces, yet is emotional enough to handle the conflict in his own family. There are also some meaty scenes about The Troubles, which reflect going concerns about the search for the truth. The real truth though is that it’s hard to forget the past and forgive killers who have ruined families. But maybe baby steps can be made… The Truth Commissioner is a reasonably solid drama. ***