With a slew of television work between it and his feature film debut, the Roddy Doyle-scripted When Brendan Met Trudy (2000), Kieron Walsh’s Jump shows that he has grown significantly as a filmmaker over the intervening years. Where that first feature, made during the height of the Celtic Tiger, suffered due to its reliance on the tropes of many similar “fish out of water” Hollywood products, Jump is highly conscious of its cinematic precedents, cleverly manipulating its own continuity to assemble a bloody mosaic of its characters’ lives. Set in contemporary Northern Ireland (specifically Derry, its second-largest city), Jump makes no explicit mention of The Troubles or any other part of Irish history, and this may be the film’s only real failure. Remnants of the conflict are visible at two points (a “Free Derry” sign and a crude chalk mural) but the film quickly bypasses these ugly bits, treating them more as scenery or background, in an effort to position itself in a “post-conflict” era. Much more relevant to the lives of the characters at hand is the presence of gangs involved in drug and gun trafficking. Greta (Nichola Burley, leaving behind her unfortunate credit in the horrendously generic StreetDance 3D), the first character we meet, is the daughter of Frank Feeney, a kingpin of the Derry underworld who has been robbed by Pearse Kelly (Martin McCann) the older brother of a small-timer who was killed by Frank’s men. After Pearse saves Greta from committing suicide (by jumping off the Peace Bridge, no less!), the two decide to run away to Australia together. Pearse, however, has second thoughts after Greta reveals who her father is. Such coincidences abound in the film, and it is only thanks to Walsh’s deft filmmaking that the device never induces the cries of disbelief one might expect as the twists of fate pile up more and more as the film goes on. Jump also follows two of Feeney’s thugs who are hunting down Pearse and two of Greta’s friends as they kill time waiting for her to show up and celebrate New Year’s Eve with them. The intermingling of these three storylines is the film’s major success, and credit must go to Walsh’s screenplay (written in collaboration with Steve Brookes, making his first foray into features) and direction. That is not to take anything away from the actors, however, as the mostly young cast turns in performances that indicate both freshness and future promise. McCann deserves special mention for his turn as Pearse, allowing the character’s inexperience with Derry’s seedier parts to show on his freshly-battered face while at the same time balancing considerable helpings of both fear and hope for the future. In a Nutshell: A film that stands above similar works thanks to the cleverness of its construction and a promising cast.
Director: Kieron J. Walsh
Starring: Nichola Burley, Martin McCann, Charlene McKenna