REVIEW: Gabriel

7 07 2015

GabrielLou Howe’s “Gabriel” relies almost exclusively on two storytelling techniques: the slow parsing of details (as opposed to expository information) and dramatic irony.  From the outset, we can tell that Rory Culkin’s eponymous protagonist has something slightly off in his personality.  We do not know what this affliction is, but we can suspect his condition has been medically diagnosed and ineffectively treated.

Then, from our privileged position as spectators rather than participants, we can watch knowing that his increasingly erratic behavior will likely result in some sort of dramatic incident worth the price of admission.  If Howe wanted to start a discussion about mental illness, why not explicitly name Gabriel’s condition from the beginning (or make a documentary)?  No, we know that all his uncomfortable dealings with family and alienated friends can only lead to one end … and it certainly does not look promising or pretty.

The thousand dollar question for “Gabriel,” then, is whether the journey is worth taking, the descent worth watching?  The answer, for the most part, is yes.

Rory Culkin makes his character consistently compelling as he runs the gamut from sympathetic to indefensible and then to helpless.  Gabriel’s motives may appear unreasonable or irrational to us, but they clearly make sense to him.  Culkin always communicates that certainty, which often results in a successful eliciting of empathy as his actions fail to match his intentions.

His conduct drives most everyone predictably mad (or scared), though the most compelling scenes in “Gabriel” come when Culkin shares the screen with Deirdre O’Connell, who plays his long-suffering mother, Meredith.  She really knows how to hold Gabriel’s feet to the fire, and her complex response of understanding mixed with exasperation best mirrors our own as the audience.  B / 2halfstars

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