Thursday, January 12, 2012
Things I learned about storytelling from the film "The Guard"
Maybe it's cos I'm ancient now, but the high point of this apprentice storyteller's New Year's Eve was watching the Irish film "The Guard" with these awesome folks (a.k.a. the 'rents):
I really enjoyed the movie and learned a lot about writing from it:
1. A strong enough main character can carry an entire story
Brendan Gleeson's character, Sgt. Gerry Boyle, is a consummate anti-hero. He isn't always a likeable character but is a sympathetic one by the end of the film. His character is so well-crafted that often he was enough on screen; other narrative texture elements — plot, setting etc — were eclipsed by him.
2. Make minor characters matter
Screenwriter John Michael McDonagh also paid the same attention to detail to his minor protagonists. By giving them fun quirks — such as the way FBI Agent Wendell Everett eats a sugar cube before he drinks each cup of coffee he orders — McDonagh created characters unlikely to be forgotten.
He also gave character arcs to minor players, such as the jaded criminal Clive Cornell, who regains his joie de vivre by the end of the movie (does this count as a spoiler? Sorry.)
3. Parallels excel
Two actions at the end of the movie echo things that happened during it (no spoilers here!), while the scene where the criminal gang congregates in front of a shark tank in Galway's National Aquarium resonates nicely with comic symbolism.
4. The paydirt is in the details
And then there were the amusing random details: the Daniel O'Donnell poster in Sgt. Gerry Boyle's house, and the blunderbuss used during the film. Small unusual details like these made the story stand out.
To sum up: it's a great film on lots of levels. Go see!