Filmed in 2013 under the more fitting title Cold, Leopard is a dark, brooding tale of two estranged brothers who’s lives are forced back together after the death of their father. Past resentments and mysteries are brought to the surface and new ones arise after they find a badly beaten woman on the moors. Can the brothers put deal with the resentment and mistrust of the villagers and each other long enough to resolve their differences?
Written, directed by, and starring Eoin Macken (Merlin, Centurion) as Jack and it is a showcase for his talents. Set in rural Ireland but with a large touch of Steinbeck and Sam Shepard, Tom returns home for his father’s funeral after a lengthy absence. The locals aren’t particularly happy to see him back, that includes his brother Tom (Tom Hopper Knights of Badassdom, Merlin). Tom still resents Jack’s leaving him alone with their abusive father when he got out of town. Now, with their mother having vanished many years ago, they’re the only family the other has. Tensions escalate when a woman Jack was eying at the pub turns up badly beaten on the moors.
The script takes this event and twists it through not one unreliable viewpoint but two. Neither of the brothers is entirely trustworthy as a narrator. Jack has a strong fondness for the bottle and can’t entirely remember what happened on the fateful night. Tom on the other hand is a big, but somewhat simple minded man, with his own issues. We see the events that follow from both perspectives and we’re left uncertain which version, if either, is what is really happening. However once at least some of this is settled the plot takes a twist that undercuts this theme and sets up the film’s conclusion. While it is a strong ending I can’t help but wish the buildup around the girl hadn’t been so badly wasted.
Beautifully shot with Ireland’s natural beauty giving contrast to the human ugliness at the plot’s center, Leopard isn’t the easiest of films to watch or describe without spoiling it. Some of it is downright disturbing on an emotional level and it never comes close to being cheerful or happy. It’s a grim piece of drama, but a very strong one, strong enough to hold my interest despite it certainly not being my usual kind of film.
Osiris Entertainment are releasing Leopard to VOD this month.