Director/Writer: Tom Hall
Running Time: 107 mins
Starring: Doomhnall Gleeson, Luanne Gordon, Patrick Ryan, Kelly Campbell, Owen Roe
Director/writer Tom Hall finds an inventive solution to the monotony and loneliness of countryside living in his latest feature, Sensation.
Living alone in Limerick on the farm of his recently deceased father, what Donal lacks in social skills, he makes up for in sex drive. From the opening shot of Donal masturbating in a field to his internet activity using pseudonym “Sweetdick”, it’s clear with little else to occupy himself, sex takes up a large part of his daily thoughts.
When Donal contacts independent escort, Courtney from New Zealand, little does he know one dial of her digits will change his life. As he gets to know Courtney during his “full date experience”, he learns she too has invented her own persona. As she leaves the next day, he’s introduced to Kim. With this slight human contact, Donal is back for more discovering her dire situation and offering her a temporary place to stay. Both directionless, alone and dreaming of “management”, they agree to set up their own escort service recruiting more girls but soon emotions get in the way.
Doomhnall Gleeson plays Donal with the perfect combination of depravity and sensitivity. Donal’s early attempts at communication in his local are painful to watch and hardly surprising given that the only sex education he’s ever had is how to shag a sheep. His first meeting with Kim at Divas is equally clueless as he actually orders food for both of them and seems unsure of what he wants. His isolated existence is highlighted by his four entry mobile phone address book and only contact being his best friend, Karl.
Karl and Kim are given the best lines by Hall, making them as interesting to watch as the central character. Karl tells Donal he’s like “a rapist in [his] own head” and warns him that Kim is “the one grooming [him]”. Although slightly more successful with the ladies, when Donal contemplates finding “how to pick up women courses”, Karl complains perhaps “there are some things the computer can’t teach us” – both eventually rather desperately resorting to conversations with supermarket staff because “checkout chicks are girls that have to talk to you”.
Kim is a very blunt character who matter-of-factly talks about her past and current work as merely business: “cum and baby wipes still make me gag sometimes… I’ve got a pussy like a magician’s sleeve”. As she opens herself up to Donal, he learns that “there’s more to life than sex” and actually becomes more interested in self-grooming and personal hygiene. His complex relationship with Kim finally gives Donal the confidence to meet other girls.
Sensation is an original captivating character studying charting the growth and development of the protagonist Donal. A tense courtroom trial leads to an unexpected but ultimately hopeful ending that almost transforms Sensation into a contemporary fairytale.
Showing as part of the London Film Festival in various venues across London on Thursday 21, Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 October.