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The Young Offenders

Hearing that a drug-trafficking boat has capsized off the coast of West Cork dynamic duo, Conor MacSweeney (Alex Murphy) and Jack Murphy (Chris Walley), decide to cycle their way towards definite riches and away from their suffocating families. Falling somewhere between the childish endearment of Stand by Me and the bawdy bromance of Superbad, director Peter Foott ventures beyond well-trodden ‘rebellious boys’ narrative ground with a charming film that balances comedy and sincerity without slipping into melodrama. Littered with pop songs, a tendency towards cultural and generational stereotypes initially threatens to undermine the authenticity of The Young Offenders. Yet it is the characters themselves who gradually steer the film’s emotional trajectory. The script is seamlessly strung together, switching from moments of comic absurdity to touching tributes to family bond (or the lack thereof) and back again. The true beauty of the film, however, lies in its breathtaking scenery, showing a side of rural Ireland rarely captured on screen. This lyricism is not suggested by the rough-hewn urban setting of the first half of the film. The two boys are introduced as your average dim-witted, crime-committing street punks. But as they venture further away from home, acts of blind, male aggression give way to moments of genuine affection. The two young leads exhibit a tenderness and spontaneity which enhances the more serious nature of the film. With flawless comic timing that verges on improv, their performances a continually surprising, filled with unexpected remarks and ingeniously hysterical banter. It’s a nuanced portrayal that evokes the realism of Ken Loach coupled with the quippy, cutting dialogue of Martin McDonagh (á la In Bruges). Boiling down to a finale that strikes a satisfying note between intense and hilarious, the film ends on a cathartic note. Our two heroes exceed expectations and, although the musical cues sometimes ...