5.5 out of 10


Release Date: 18th September 2015

Director: David Blair (Away / Best Laid Plans (2012))

Cast: Robert Sheehan, Lily Cole, Tamzin Merchant, Jack Fox, Deirdre O’Kane, Alex Wyndham, Andrew Tiernan, Ali Cook with David O’Hara and Joely Richardson

Writer: Andrew Kirk


Review by Matt Usher below


  • Robert Sheehan: Fortitude (TV), Jet Trash, Moonwalkers, Mortal Instruments, Demons Never Die, Cherrybomb, Killing Bono, Season Of The Witch, Misfits (TV)
  • Lily Cole: London Fields, Snow White and The Huntman, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, St Trinians
  • Tamzin Merchant: Dragonheart 3, Jane Eyre (2011), The Tudors (TV)
  • Jack Fox: Level Up, Kids In Love, Theeb, Blood Moon
  • Deirdre O’Kane: Noble, Moone Boy (TV), Killing Bono, Festival, Boy Eats Girl, Intermission, With or Without You
  • Alex Wyndham: The Crimson Field (TV), Little Dorrit (TV), Rome (TV), As You Like It (2006), The Line of Beauty (TV)
  • Andrew Tiernan: Automata, Dragonfly (2015), 300 – part II, War of the Dead, Mr Nice, FreightDead Cert, 300, The Pianist, The Bunker, Face, The Trial (1993), Edward II, As You Like It (1992)
  • Ali Cook:  Once Upon a Time In London, Lost In Karastan, The Call Up, In The Blood (2015), Kajaki, The Anomaly, Get Lucky
  • David O’Hara: Luther (TV), Reach Me, Contraband, Best Laid Plans (2012), The Kid (2010), Cowboys & Aliens, Wanted, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Doomsday, Jack Said, The Departed, Hotel Rwanda, The Match, The Devil’s Own, Some Mother’s Son, The Near Room, Braveheart, The Bridge (1992)
  • Joely Richardson: The Time of Their Lives, The Hatton Garden Job, Snowden, Maggie, Endless Love (2014), Vampire Academy, Red Lights, The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo (2011), Anonymous, The Tudors (TV), Nip / Tuck (TV), The Last Mimzy, Shoreditch, The Patriot, Maybe Baby, Return To Me, Event Horizon, 101 Dalmatians (1997), Hollow Reed, Loch Ness, Sister My Sister, I’ll Do Anything, Lady Chatterley (TV), Rebecca’s Daughters, Shining Through, King Ralph, Drowning By Numbers

One thought on “THE MESSENGER (2015)

  1. Review by Matt ‘dirty text messager’ Usher

    I slipped in and out of consciousness for the first 38 minutes of THE MESSENGER, which may be all you need to know about it, so this might not be the most helpful thing I’ve ever written. Particularly as several weeks have now passed and what little I recall teeters uncertainly at the edge of my mind, desperate to drop out of my head altogether and into a not-completely earned oblivion, which will happen the moment I finish this review (or possibly even earlier).

    Although technically nothing to do with Bruce Willis’ last really big film, this arguably a sort-of sequel to THE SIXTH SENSE in that we have a young man (yesteryear’s creepy-kid-expert Haley Joel Osment being replaced by his very near contemporary Robert Sheehan) (there’s only a few weeks between them) who sees and chats with dead people whilst he’s going about his daily business. Seemingly having nothing better to do he generally spends his days mooching about moodily, annoying potential suicides and telling bereaved people that their loved ones loved them, but mostly making a bit of a pig’s ear out of it (he approaches them like he’s about to ask them for money, chats to them about dead people they used to know without really explaining himself, they get annoyed/terrified/offended and he goes away feeling bad, with the police often escorting him from the premises). It’s a curse you see, rather than a blessing, and it’s fair to say that Sheehan hasn’t really learned to cope with it all, and it’s clearly a job he doesn’t like, but he does seem to make everything more difficult for himself by making himself appear to be a delusional loon (it was a long time after I’d seen the film that I realised the film was trying to say ‘is he genuinely in touch with the souls of the dead or is he a delusional loon?’, I apologise, I’d completely missed that fairly important ambiguity, but my excuse (apart from sleep) is that the film makes it pretty clear he’s genuine because he knows loads of stuff that he can’t have known otherwise, so when the twist comes (which seems to be: he really was clairvoyant after all) it merely confirms what we already knew because that’s what the film has been about.) (I think).

    I expect it’d really annoy all concerned if I keep going on about THE SIXTH SENSE, but in a way it is a bit of a compliment, and makes THE MESSENGER a bit more interesting because although the latter is stuffed to the gills with a flashback-origins-story, it’s not a particularly good one (I have a pet hate of films which unfold flashback stories in such a way to make it seem as if the protagonist is experiencing the flashback for the first time). But it’s a bit more interesting if you think ‘oh so that’s what happens when little clairvoyants grow up’. And what happens is that they grow up to be really quite incredibly irritating. It’s not Sheehan’s fault but there’s only so much angst and neuroticism that I can take in the name of a semi-fictional affliction. But it’s not enough to just make a character study about a clairvoyant – that would involve extensive research – so the makers of THE MESSENGER throw in a murder mystery to help things along / run it into the ground. It’s something to do with a TV celebrity, a journalist, and a conspiracy (about property, taxes, spies or dodgy military operations – one of them) (not that it matters as it’s not really cleared up). And that’s about it.

    Sheehan is excellent in what is (surprisingly) an under-written role. Under-written in the sense that, although he’s constantly on screen and rambles on forever, the film doesn’t really explore the character. He rants and weeps and gets locked up and is awkward and stubborn and weird. But that’s all first draft stuff. The film can’t make him anything more than a person with a troubled mind. Sheehan copes with it admirably, and makes more of the character than he’s given. The rest of the cast might as well have not turned up (unkinder critics might suggest they didn’t). instead of the film depicting these characters as Sheehan sees and experiences them(or even vice versa) the film adopts a fairly neutral omniscient third-person approach, which drains any ambiguity, which means they’re all meant to be real and that they are whoever they say they are. And they’re a thoroughly boring bunch who only exist to inch various plot threads forward a little.

    The film ponders ponderously along, roping in Joely Richardson as a psychiatrist without a clue, Lily Cole as a bored sister, and possible rising star (that means I’ve seen him a couple of times in quick succession without wanting him banished from the screen) Jack Fox as one of the unsettled dead. The conspiracy thriller aspect fizzles out, the revelations of the past are hardly earth-shattering, and the character’s inner torment just isn’t interesting enough: there are no quirks or unexpected things. Basically being a messenger of the dead is a miserable, lonely job with no pay, unsociable hours and no choice. That’s fine for a short story or a first draft, but the film could and should have gone further. Our hero has spent most of his life in this state – surely he had some sort of coping strategies, surely there are some ways in which he can use it to his advantage, surely there were other things the writers could have brought to make the character more bearable.

    If you like this sort of film it’s been done elsewhere better. It works best as a very long Robert Sheehan showreel (maybe it’s really for Sheehan completists only) – fortunately it’s a fairly good one, it just doesn’t go much beyond that. But if you do need to see him being miserable, shouty, desperate or having a nervous breakdown then this is the film to see.

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