Today: April 20, 2024

King of the Travellers

It’s not every day that you have the chance to watch a modern-day hybrid of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, played out amongst a community of travellers in Ireland.

It’s not every day that you have the chance to watch a modern-day hybrid
of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet,
played out amongst a community of
travellers in Ireland.
It’s this unusual combination that acts as the
foundation for King of the Travellers
and the result is both patchy and entertaining.

The film tells the tale of a young traveller
who is haunted by the murder of his Father; he is constantly hunting for the
killer but his quest is complicated by his family’s feud with a rival group of
travellers, and the relationship he develops with a girl from this rival
family. The threat of violence is present throughout the film – vicious, bare
knuckle boxing matches are a popular past-time – and the actors do a good job
of emphasising the family tension and old hatred that breeds the unsettled
atmosphere in which they live.

The opening scene – in which two of the
travellers attend a tense meeting with a police officer and member of council –
quickly establishes the vein of bitterness and mistrust that exists between the
travellers and the rest of the local community, while foreshadowing the anger
and violence that builds throughout the film. Like the Shakespearian tragedies
from which King of the Travellers takes many of its cues, there is the constant
sense that the characters are trapped on a downwards spiral; this allows
director Mark O’Connor to create an
ever-present atmosphere of tension and unrest.

While the Shakespearian influence drives the
story it also leads to some inconsistencies which let the film as a whole down.
The scene in which John (John Connors)
encounters the ghost of his dead father while on a drug trip, for instance,
clashes with the realism that’s present elsewhere in the film, and feels too
much like a plot device. The same could also be said for John’s relationship
with Winnie (Carla McGlynn) – their
childhood back-story is crowbarred in to the script to help establish a hasty
romantic connection, which ultimately feels a bit forced.

Problems aside, though, King of the
Travellers is still an entertaining film to watch – it may be a bit ragged
round the edges, but the solid acting and fast-paced story are (just) enough to
hold it together.

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