A Morass of Modern Anxieties


Most movies, as things that are made, come off as massive, costly, inscrutable technological erections—like cathedrals or suspension bridges—but Lodge Kerrigan’s Keane seems to have simply occurred of its own accord, like a gutter sapling or a piece of street drama you happened to walk by, alive and crazy and without guile. Shot on the shoulder in Manhattan, the movie centers on a Beckettian lost one any urban dweller knows well: essentially homeless, absolutely alone, living on disability, and borderline psychotic. Keane (Damian Lewis) is seen first pleading with Port Authority clerks for help finding his daughter, who (he says) disappeared months earlier on his watch from a boarding platform nearby. Of course, whether or not this is even remotely factual is a question Kerrigan not only doesn’t answer, but finds irrelevant—Keane is a painfully specific figure but at the same time a totem, lean and frightening, for a morass of modern anxieties. Eventually, he crosses flop-hotel paths with a desperate mom (Amy Ryan) and her pensive seven-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin), giving Keane cause on one hand to try to realign himself into something socially presentable, and on the other to rescue himself with magical thinking and a hair-raising re-enactment of the dreadful moment when he thinks his life went wrong. All the more dazzling, then, is the sly emotional arc and invisibly heroic denouement. Kerrigan has a Cassavetes-like brilliance in nailing down naturalistic performances. Although Lewis holds the film in his bloodshot gaze, Breslin is its secret weapon: utterly convincing, wary but naïve, saddened by adult inconstancy but heartrendingly susceptible to hope and attention. Extras include an alternate cut of the film edited, just for Kuleshovian kicks, by executive producer Steven Soderbergh.