We're two months into a barely post-apocalyptic Ireland. The cause is an unexplained lack of electricity, the setting is very rural, and the plot is concerned with the quick, yet inevitable decline of the unprepared into the unimaginable.
Unlike the usual post-apocalyptic fare in which the hero sets off on some real or imagined quest against a backdrop of horror, in One Hundred Mornings our ineffectual characters basically sit around and wait for the shockwaves of the electrical meltdown to come to them. And come they do. And, sort of surprisingly, in pretty well the expected ways. However, it's both the upside and the downside of 100M that we experience the physical and emotional toll of this social change not through glorious shots of urban abandonment and carnage, of strange dangers, of coming to terms… no… we spend our 100 mornings up close and personal with four rather unusual characters. It's the upside of 100M because it's more interesting to see generally regular people try to cope with rapid, dramatic social change and danger, and the downside because these twenty-somethings seem to be rather doltish about the direness of their situation, and simple-mindedly assume that all will return to normal when it's pretty damn obvious that little fantasy is the wish of someone in deep denial.
The main protagonists are two couples – Jonathan and Hanna, and their guests, Mark and Katie. They're at Jon and Hanna's country cottage beside a lake, and as it's fall and they've been there two months one assumes they've arrived on a vacation during the late summer and we enter the picture just as they're getting bored with waiting for the power to return. Their main sources of entertainment are Tim, the self-sufficient yet psychotic agrarian neighbor, and Sgt Lavelle, the self-sufficient yet sleazy cop with the guns. And let's not forget their favorite pastime: sitting around and eating. But even bored hormones are active hormones, and as tensions build within the group to do something, anything, so does surreptitious romance, and soon we have a double overlap of primary forces – I'm really hungry – and ego-based emotion – you screwed my man/woman – splitting the four into an even-less prepared and depressing crew of distracted dummies.
And down they go. After a few instinctual encounters with Tim, a couple deaths, a change of men and reconciliation twixt Jon and Hanna, 100M ends with the extinguishment of Jon's last cigarette – the last symbol of the life he led before. Welcome, brutal agrarian existence… or?
Yeah, 100M is relentlessly depressing in that slow burn of endless bad news, but what's really depressing is just how stupid these finely-crafted characters are. 100M is done super-realistic style, almost documentary in places, with lots of technology around, and because of this you'd think one of these four urbanites would look around, put two and two together, and go full pre-electric survival mode. Hasn't anyone in Ireland heard of post-apocalyptic? Has no one read The Road? They don't have a weapon, ward off gangs with a shovel and faked shotgun, and they keep all their precious supplies in an outdoors shed! Hey, guys, pay attention! While they should have been preparing for the worst, they're knitting, reading books, sneaking sex in the woods, eating, and generally either asking each other what to do, or reassuring each other that this will soon be over. Whatever "this" is.
Still, perhaps our characters are in some way symbolic of Ireland itself. Writer/director Conor Horgan may be casting a jaundiced eye over the fiscally-plundered isle, perhaps suggesting to Ireland's disenfranchised youth that the economic electricity may be off for a long time, and waiting around for the juice to flow may simply be waiting for the end. Message? Employ Plan B before it's too late. And this is what too late looks like.
OK, while it may be tough to warm to our reality-denying characters, the hot ensemble cast certainly brings them to life and makes us empathic to their situation. Ciarán McMenamin plays the waffling Jonathan, and his delicate portrayal of this brooding, confused, almost-leader is a joy to watch. Aled Reid plays the suffering pragmatist Hanna to perfection – she's great in the j'accuse scene – and Rory Keenan is body-perfect as the dogsbody to Jon and irrational optimist for the group. Kelly Campbell plays the wandering Katie, and does a wonderful job of flowing her emotions through three of the flick's four men. Robert O'Mahony is perfect as the bastard neighbor, and Paul Ronan is a deliciously darkside copper.
When producer Katie Holly sat down to do a quick first divide of 100M's ridiculously small budget of 275,000 euros, she must have decided then and there to spend most of the dough on Horgan, the actors, and finally cinematographer Suzie Lavelle (the cop's name was no doubt an insider joke). She got her money's worth. Right from the opening scenes Lavelle's shotmaking is spectacular. She displays a terrific control of light, especially in the copious indoor scenes, mostly candlelit, and in gorgeous daytime scenes through which our four horsemen occasionally trot. Couple her lens control with Horgan's adman-based sense of visual design and style, PoV, and DoF, and you have a visual treat that works hard to keep you happy, and hopefully interested during the money-saving talkie scenes.
One Hundred Mornings. One Hundred Mournings? The Irish like their Joycean puns. And, apparently, dark stories with darker endings. If anything, I'd say One Hundred Mornings seems to explore the theme of exhaustion, of ennui, of not being able to gather the energy or the will to create a community, even in the face of extinction. These protagonists are enslaved and trapped within their characters, their damaged egos driving emotional decisions when logic is needed, and each headpiece is from a different jigsaw puzzle. They can't get along, nor can they break up, and they tend to simply go with the flow until fate points a bony finger at each and each alone must make the big leap decision which will affect not only the rest of their lives, but if they have lives at all. Oh, and don't screw your survival buddy's woman (ya dunce).
Would I watch this movie again? Nope, not even 100 times. But it was a mostly pretty cool trip the first time, especially in the second half, where circumstances begin to really narrow and the action goes very dark. What can I say? If you like Irish Cream Depressos done slow burn, then this is the designer blend for you.
Rating: 8 out of 10
This review originally appeared on Quiet Earth.