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Barber (2023) - Movie Review

Movies & TV

By Jessica R.

- Oct 3, 2023

In Fintan Connolly's "Barber," Dublin looks like a cold, introverted space, a representation of confinement with its cramped streets, dimly lit rooms, and oppressive bars. Val Barber, a private investigator, lives in a penthouse. Despite its expansive view, it fails to provide a sense of liberty or open space. The city, much like the inhabitants, is a reservoir of long-standing secrets and unresolved grudges. It is during the initial phase of the Covid lockdown, where "social distancing" is common and Zoom calls are the trend.

The movie unfolds a Dublin, a metaphorical Ireland, torn between its history and the present, reflecting underlying tensions. It’s not so much about the crime Val investigates as it is about the repressive atmosphere of the city. Barber (Aidan Gillen), investigates the disappearance of a young girl with the Garda seen as possibly involved in concealment. It leads Barber into an intricate web of power, facing institutional silence and intimidation, reflecting the echoes of the #MeToo movement in 2020.

The ambiance in "Barber" brings to mind the atmosphere of suspicion and suppression depicted in John Banville's Christine Falls, part of the "Quirke" mystery series set in 1950s Dublin. Like Quirke, Barber is an intricate character, battling his demons and hiding his secrets. He lives in a time purportedly more open. However, the specter of the past still hangs heavily, with real threats of extortion and unresolved personal issues. It reflects a society grappling with progressive and regressive tendencies.

Barber, while negotiating the myriad complexities of his life, is silently struggling with his concealed issues, an echo of a bygone era still persisting in the newly "woke Ireland." His concelead aspects of life don’t seem to burden him, maybe because he’s accustomed to a life of secrets. He’s distant from his spouse and his daughter. He endures both cognitive and physical repercussions from an accident and holds her mother responsible. Secrets dominate their interactions, signaling long-lasting impacts.

The narrative could have potentially explored deeper connections between the modern awakening and the societal strains symbolized by the vanished girl's ordeal. It's not the plot, the occurrences, but rather the inherent societal strains and resulting repercussions that form the essence of the story, revealing Ireland's internal conflict between modern ideals and entrenched values. Barber's personal endeavors to resolve his internal conflicts mirror his professional ones, bridging gaps in both realms.

Gillen’s portrayal of Barber is layered, reflecting his internal tumult and barely concealed desires. His struggles are evident in his every gesture. They are a living reminder of his clandestine life and the resulting ramifications on his relationships. "Barber" vividly illustrates this world through Gillen’s expressive acting.

A more in-depth exploration of the underlying themes would have elevated "Barber" beyond a conventional crime drama, providing a more nuanced glimpse into a society in flux. Despite the lockdowns and seemingly stagnant life, change is brewing, and progress is unstoppable. The depicted societal tensions, and progress resist regression. They reveal a more profound narrative about societal transformation and the push and pull between the old and the new. All of these components are illustrated through Barber's professional and personal journeys.


7 / 10

In Fintan Connolly's "Barber," Dublin is depicted as a cold, introverted space, a representation of confinement with its cramped streets.