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This Irish film based loosely on Kevin Power’s book Bad Day in Blackrock, shows teenager Kevin, who lives a fairly typical teenage life with his group of friends, when a random act of violence inspired by jealousy over his girlfriend, changes all of their lives. He is forced to question his conscience and live with the consequences of his actions.

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Year of release: 2012

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Writer: Kevin Power (book), Malcolm Campbell

Main cast: Jack Reynor, Gavin Drea, Patrick Gibson, Sam Keeley, Roisin Murphy, Lars Mikkelsen

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Genre: Drama

Highlights: The brooding atmosphere, clever use of silence

Lowlights: None really but this is not a film to watch if you are in need of being cheered up!

Overall: Not for everyone, as for large portions of the film not much actually happens. I like how it viewed the effect of a violent act on the perpetrator rather than on the victims. It’s bleak but strangely compelling viewing

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The Hartes and The Golds have lived next door to each other for years. The two couples are best friends, and their children – Christopher and Emily – grew up together, and eventually fell in love. Life is seemingly idyllic for the families, until the night where Emily is killed from a gunshot to the head, and Chris tells his parents that it was a suicide pact gone wrong. Neither family wants to believe this could have happened and both want to know the truth. But as the police investigation begins, both sets of parents have to question how well they really knew their children at all.

As is almost always the case with Jodi Picoult, this book is compelling reading, and held my interest throughout. There are two timelines – the one in the past which builds up the history of Chris and Emily’s relationship, and the one in the present day, which focuses on the police investigation and the discovery of what really happened that fateful night.

As it transpired, I actually found myself disliking both sets of parents and feeling more sympathy towards the Chris and Emily – Emily in particular, not only because she dies at the very start of the story, but also because she actually seemed the most likeable character of all. I did enjoy the character of Jordan McAfee, Chris’s attorney and his assistant Selena. I was not particularly able to warm to Chris but I had to remind myself that he was a privileged (read, spoiled) teenager, going through an incredibly tough process. There were a few things that jarred with me – Emily’s mother Melanie mistakenly believes at one point that her new neighbours are a gay couple and wonders what kind of neighbourhood she and her family have moved to. I’m not sure if this was meant to be a reflection upon the character of Melanie herself however, I also felt that Emily and Chris were almost pushed together because it was what their parents’ wanted, not necessarily what they themselves might have wanted.

Nonetheless, if you want a story that moves along at a good pace, despite alternate chapters set in different timelines, and one that that will keep you guessing as well as presenting the reader with a moral dilemma, then I would probably recommend this book. It’s not Picoult’s best (my own lowly opinion would rate that as the excellent Nineteen Minutes) but it’s still an absorbing story.

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