The time: the 1980s. The place: conflict-ridden Northern Ireland. The characters: two bored young Irishmen who, bored to tears by their jobs as barbers at a mental institution, hit on the bright idea of making their fortune by taking over the hairpiece company of one of the inmates (committed after scalping several of his customers). After all, they'll have a monopoly. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot, as it turns out!
Barry McEvoy and Brian O'Byrne are completely natural in their roles as Colm and George, the two would-be entrepreneurs, with Anna Friel adding considerable sparkle as Colm's resourceful girlfriend. The humor in An Everlasting Piece comes from these characters encountering a "domino effect" of oddball occurrences: despite their good intentions and planning, they keep getting themselves deeper and deeper into absurd situations. There's a touch of slapstick humor, particularly regarding the trials and tribulations of one particular sample hairpiece, but director Barry Levinson keeps it low-key, which I think is well in keeping with the overall tone of the movie, which aims more for the smile than the belly laugh.
Amusing and generally light-hearted, An Everlasting Piece nevertheless has its serious elements. The screenplay, written by McEvoy, provides for excellent characterizations of the characters. While they appear at first in broadly humorous outlines (George, for instance, as the poetry-spouting barber), as the film unfolds, these outlines are filled in to become genuinely three-dimensional characters.
There's an odd shift in tone in the second half of the movie, becoming much more serious as the characters are forced to confront the issues of religious intolerance and politics in the war zone of that was 1980s Northern Ireland. The humor continues, but in a more subdued manner, as the emphasis shifts to the characters' serious concerns. It's still enjoyable, and certainly gives a distinctive character to the film, but it's admittedly a contrast to the more light-hearted earlier half of the movie.
This is a nice package for a little-known movie. We're treated to a sharp, clear image, with bright colors and good contrast. The transfer is very clean, with basically no noise visible at all.
An Everlasting Piece's sound is top-notch. There's a DTS 5.1 track as well as Dolby 5.1 and Dolby 2.0. The opening scene of waves crashing on a rocky shore firmly establishes that the movie makers knew how to make proper use of surround sound, and the rest of the movie follows suit. The dialogue is crystal-clear, which is especially helpful for the U.S. audience, since the actors have fairly strong accents (which, I might add, were a treat to listen to!).
Cast and crew biographies, production notes, and a theatrical trailer comprise the set of extras for this DVD. In other words, it's not a bare-bones disc, but there's nothing that is really attention-grabbing, either.
An Everlasting Piece is a quirky and generally likeable film. At times it feels like Levinson and McEvoy weren't certain of the balance they wanted to strike between comedy and drama, but nonetheless it kept me engaged for the whole time. It's worth getting a hold of, especially if you've enjoyed other British comedies.