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Over the past couple decades, Ireland has been hitting home runs with original movies such as Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges and The Banshees of Irisherin, and last year’s The Quiet Girl. 2023 is obviously continuing in good stead for Ireland, with The Black Guelph being one of the most overlooked films of the year and also among the best movies that came out this year. Now comes Barber, a new mystery thriller starring Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, Peaky Blinders), which promises an intriguing mystery laced with some wonderful character drama. Nonetheless, Barber disappoints in this respect.

Barber on its part does give us another outstanding performance by Gillen though it may not be his best role or performance ever but he is always awesome. Besides, one of the movie’s strengths lies in character drama aspect within it especially concentering on Gillen’s character and his family. Otherwise, there’s nothing much about the film to attract viewers’ attention. Even though there are some interesting moments in the mystery, overall it is not very compelling. Some dialogue was at best questionable during parts of the film while soundtracks were overdone, uninspiring as well as distracting from what people should have kept their eyes on.

Directed and co-written by Fintan Conolly with writer Fiona Bergin, Barber features private investigator Val Barber (Gillen) investigating a missing girl hired by a rich widow. Suddenly vanished into thin air possible reasons start appearing since soon enough more secrets will come out during Barbers initial investigation concerning her disappearance that becomes darker day after another. Eventually however Barber finds himself entangled with powerful men who have no shame when they thwart his efforts.

The most fascinating part about this Irish thriller has to be its amazing character drama which we wish was explored further in it. Barber happens to be a bisexual divorcee who cheated on his wife; now they are great friends and their daughter (Aisling Kearns) still loves her dad. Nonetheless, it’s not an aspect of his character that is representative of him being cheaply defined by his sexuality, but it does create some interesting dynamics between him and his family, as well as Barber experiencing hostility from the police.

The most enjoyable moments are when viewers can simply sit there with Barber and his daughter talking to each other. All their dialogues and performances in them are note-perfect. When he tells her about himself being bisexual and its impact on the family and those around him, this discussion is really gripping. It brings us closer to these characters on a more personal level as well as deeper emotional connection [layers] unlike the one dimensional P.I.s they were first introduced as. Moreover, the scenes with Barber and ex-wife either together or separated with daughter are also having equal depth and character growth.

Aidan Gillen is an excellent actor. His performance as Little Finger on the Game of Thrones was one of the best in the series, and he has been nothing short of brilliant as Aberama Gold on Peaky Blinders too. He often plays shady, complex adversaries who are motivated by self-interest only, as seen from these two instances. Even his character in The Wire, which was intended to be a paragon idealist, came out sort of a jerk. It’s a little weird seeing Gillen play a good guy in this role, but no one should be surprised because Gillen offers an exceptional and captivating portrayal of Val Barber, the private eye.

Gillen brings numerous subtleties to the character of the veteran P.I.. The many levels that make up his personality can be seen through Barber’s interaction with a dark and complicated mystery while wrestling with inner demons; thus making him someone likable yet flawed. Although they mostly give good performances (sometimes fluctuating greatly), Gillen completely overshadows all other supporting cast members since he is simply too talented to fade away like others thereby rendering them very one-dimensional.

The biggest disappointment about Barber is its mystery. When people come to watch a thriller they usually expect it to contain some kind of deep or even enigmatic plot so it really sucks when you discover that what appeared to have started off well ends shallowly. Unfortunately, this film fails to get beyond mediocrity because despite being full of twists and turns which could have been interesting they end up being predictable and dull thus making scenes where Barber questions witnesses or suspects uninteresting. The dialogues for such scenes are so peculiar while music mentioned above was just dumb.

Certainly, there are reflections going on regarding real-life implications for government officials and law enforcement authorities who possibly played roles in her disappearance. Nonetheless movies such as last year’s She Said are better examples that feature similar themes than this new one did for Barber. The mystery in Barber never really takes off. It should be interesting, it should draw us in and keep us hooked as we want to find the missing girl and understand her story. However, audiences will lose interest fairly quickly.

In the end, Barber ends (dissatisfyingly). It’s just about a private investigator who makes a final call, then it stops abruptly. After that movie credits roll up and it is over. What makes this somewhat jarring is that the film has been pretty slow throughout thus having its ending like this. We don’t get any time with the so-called ‘big’ twist at all. We are supposed to just take for granted what happened and move on as if nothing ever occurred after that day. For ninety minutes of film it isn’t the biggest complaint but still an unfortunate ending which is not satisfying anyway but rather like a limp cherry on top of a melted sundae.

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