Damian Lewis, Keane



William (Damian Lewis), the title character of Lodge Kerrigan’s Keane, is a lost soul in free fall. He’s a man who keeps himself in a state of constant, itchy motion to escape from his demons, and to catch up with them, too. For much of the film, he wanders, as if possessed, through the dingy fluorescent cavern that is New York’s Port Authority bus station, riding the escalators and skulking around the Greyhound terminals, muttering to himself like a homeless man. Kerrigan trails this skittery, disheveled wreck with a hand-held camera, framing his hooded sleepless eyes in close-up. Lewis, who also stars in An Unfinished Life, has squinty, chiseled features that recall the young Steve McQueen, but in Keane that face is on fire with torment — with the mystery that’s driving it. In a dive bar, as he downs shots of vodka and stands next to a jukebox speaker to sing along with the Four Tops’ ”I Can’t Help Myself,” shouting the words as though they could save him, we see him through the eyes of the patrons — as a noisy nut making a scene — but also as someone who’s screaming for a redemption that won’t come.

Keane, like William himself, is rarely at rest, yet the agitated motion all swirls around a fateful pinpoint in time: the moment, several months earlier, when William casually lost track of his 6-year-old daughter at that same terminal, and suddenly she was gone — abducted, presumably, never to return. William himself keeps returning, obsessively, to the scene of the crime; it’s really his crime. Madness, in movies, is a tricky state to identify with, but Keane exerts a hair-trigger emotional power. The movie draws us into complicity with someone who may be on the verge of insanity, but only because he’s living with the unbearable: a chasm of fear and guilt, the torment of knowing that he lost his daughter and his own existence along with her.

Kerrigan has become a bit of a cult figure for his low-budget portraits of deep-dish psychic damage. His first feature, Clean, Shaven (1995), showed promise, but it was a work of fragments, overpraised for its ”impressionistic” mode of academic-tabloid horror, and Claire Dolan (2000) suffered from a surface even more disaffected than its woeful prostitute heroine. Keane, Kerrigan’s third feature, is his real breakthrough. For the first time he creates dramatic suspense, as William, trapped in his private nightmare, tries to literally relive the moment that destroyed his life. At a Jersey flophouse, he meets Lynn (Amy Ryan), a financially strapped mother, and agrees to babysit for her 7-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin). William’s salvation through this relationship may be schematic, but Keane, by the end, just about puts us inside the skin of a tender sinner who can’t bear to give himself the one thing he needs: mercy.

  • Movie
  • 93 minutes