Don’t Call What Richard Did “Bergmanesque”


The director Ingmar Bergman shot his masterpieces Persona and Through a Glass Darkly and several other films in and around his house on Fårö, an island off the coast of Sweden. In Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s moody What Richard Did, a family beach house on the coast of Dublin strongly evokes Bergman’s beloved home, one of many elements that makes the film feel like a Bergman homage without earning the clunky label “Bergmanesque.” Based on Kevin Power’s novel Bad Day in Blackrock, the film follows Dublin teenager Richard (Jack Reynor, giving a performance worth savoring before he stars in Transformers 4) as his soul unravels after he does something very bad in a moment of passion. There’s far more teenage boozing, swearing, and fucking than ol’ Ingmar would have included, even if he could have gotten away with it. (It’s set in modern-day Dublin, after all.) But many Bergman signifiers are present in tone, particularly Richard’s struggle with his guilt in a universe that seems indifferent to concepts like “right” and “wrong.” Notably, Richard’s father (Lars Mikkelsen) is established as Scandinavian; it doesn’t factor directly into the plot, other than to perhaps suggest that, like Bergman’s Swedish protagonists, Richard was born with the emotional fortitude necessary to survive such long, dark nights of the soul.