Note from Colin on playing Cathal in Parked.
“ I loved working with Darragh Byrne and Colm Meaney. The story of Fred and Cathal is amazing, and I loved the script. It’s exciting to take on different roles from my character Merlin, and not to be typecast – I’ve been lucky.”
From geek to beautiful, dispossessed outcast. Colin Morgan’s portrait of a heroin addict deserves to be the underground hit of the year. Cast aside by the father he loves, Cathal’s story is honest, messy, heartbreaking and as raw as an open wound. When has a drug addict latched onto your heart quite like Morgan’s charismatic lost boy? There is something almost Christ like about his story.
But that really isn’t the point of Parked. This funny, sad, affecting and quietly redemptive film from Irish director, Darragh Byrne, is ultimately about the beauty and power of friendship, and the deeply human need to belong.
In the middle of winter, Cathal and Fred both pull into an isolated car park looking out over a desolate Dublin Bay in winter. It soon becomes apparent that both the older man and the 21-year-old Cathal are homeless, and that they have no alternative but to live out their humdrum, fragile lives in their cars.
One of the central and most haunting themes of the film is that when you are homeless you cease to exist, especially in the eyes of benefit bureaucrats and the state. As the jaded man in the benefits office coldly tells Fred ‘If you have no fixed address, we can’t write to you, and therefore you are not eligible for benefits’.
The futility and pointlessness of Fred’s situation is like a knife in the heart. Given the deep recession in Europe and Britain, anyone could end up homeless and on the streets through unemployment, mental illness or bad luck. Colm Meaney plays Fred with subtlety, warmth and realism. We learn that he has returned to Ireland years after moving to London. Along the way we discover that he is a talented watch and clock restorer. ‘ I was going to be married,’he tells Cathal with a sense of complete confusion and bewilderment.
We feel the futility of his situation, and his desire not to let the most basic rituals such as brushing his teeth and having a strip wash go, despite his depressing circumstances. He still has pride, despite a pervading sense shock and dislocation that he has landed up outside society.
Set against this backdrop, Cathal careers into Fred’s life, all mercury eyes and a fizzing energy and restless playfulness. At first Fred is wary of the younger, wired, yet strangely charismatic Cathal. Gradually a fledgling, tentative friendship begins to take root, and Cathal takes his new friend to the local swimming baths and nudges him gently back into civilization, and the opportunity to have a hot shower. The same day he also collides with Jules, a beautiful, cultured piano teacher from Sweden, and the sparks fly.
Suddenly, life doesn’t look quite so bleak or so hopeless.
The friendship between Fred and Cathal begins to deepen. They go up to the woods, lark around and pretend to be rally drivers. Fred has the time of his life and starts to let go. This brief, playful interlude is quickly contrasted with the unwelcome arrival of the local drug dealer, a cartoon psychopath who comes looking for an overdue payment from Cathal for drugs. When the men start to ill treat Cathal, his friend instinctively steps in and offers them all the money he has to make them go away. Then in a moment of anger and a sense of injustice, he loses his temper and sees them men out of their little kingdom in the car park. Sadly, this will have tragic consequences for Cathal.
In the briefest moment of hope, Cathal promises his friend that he will give up drugs, and for a moment, just a brief moment we believe him. But his willpower will soon ebb away, and we see the ugly, awful reality of an addict, injecting heroin into his foot to hide the scars.
In the midst of a heroin haze, the drug dealer and his sidekick return to seek revenge for Fred’s noble intervention. The scene where they beat up Cathal is brutal, cruel and unsentimental. But it needs to be. There is nothing pretty or romantic about being an addict, and the people who peddle drugs are vile and inhuman criminals.
In one last hopeless cry for help, and without his friend to intervene, Cathal finds his way to his family home, and begs his father to help him and pay off the drug dealers. His father refuses and in doing so, seals his son’s fate.
Cathal wanders around a wasteland in a desperate, confused, hopeless, bloodied state, and a pack of feral kids taunt him before plying him with a final joint. Seeing him die in a miasma of pain and torment is one of the saddest moments I have ever witnessed in a film. Only in death, laid out in a coffin, does he find peace and an end to his suffering.
Fortunately, there is redemption of a kind. Fred finally outwits the benefit office with the help of the local newspaper and a kindly charity worker, and after going to Cathal’s wake, and talking to his father, we see him finally installed in his own flat. Once again, he has re-joined society.
And so the cycle of life go on – spurred on by an imperfectly beautiful, freewheeling friendship.
Parked is Directed by Darragh Byrne, and Stars Colm Meaney and Colin Morgan. It is available to rent or download from lovefilm.com
Alison Jane Reid – July 2012