by Laura Tucker
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The overall tone of 48 Angels is quite unexpected. The name itself, along with the synopsis of a dying boy looking for God before God finds him, leaves you with a certain brighter, cheerier outlook than what this very dark Irish import contains. Just the opening credits indicate as much, as they are displayed over a calm sea under an overcast, foggy sky.
Seamus (Ciaran Flynn) is a young boy in Ireland with a not too bright future. He has cancer, and after his parents are told that the chemotherapy is too hard on him and not even working anyway, it’s decided that they will stop treatment and accept the inevitable. They seem to talk behind him as if it’s something he shouldn’t concern himself with. Flynn displays great acting ability here as he doesn’t utter a word, but we as the audience seem to be able to know exactly what he’s feeling. In fact, the only time the acting fails at all in 48 Angels, is when a man has his car stolen and just stands by watching it be driven away. I’m thinking I wouldn’t just be standing there allowing it to happen.
After talking to his friend, Chris, and learning about the story of St. Columcille, Seamus decides to become a martyr, just like the saint, and puts himself alone in an rowboat, then throws away his oars, setting himself adrift. It’s his belief that he will find God this way. His thought is that if he finds God before God finds him, that God will then grant him a miracle instead of taking him from life on earth.
This sends Seamus on quite a journey, and I’m not sure if he ever finds God or not. It surely depends on your own personal belief in God, and where and how He exists. Seamus does find an older boy that he begins to travel with, James (John Travers), who is a complete mystery. Just after meeting, they discover the bloodied body of a man (Shane Brolly), and while James assumes he’s dead, Seamus assumes it’s God, and that he’s finally found Him.
With the police looming around, it seems all three, the Man, Seamus and James, have a reason to hide from them. The two boys drag the Man back to the rowboat, still unsure if he’s truly alive or dead. Only because the film is so incredibly dark does this not turn into a Weekend at Bernie’s parody, with the boys dragging the Man around. While they are at the beach, there’s no calypso music, women in bathing suits, or sunglasses, yet there are hitmen with guns.
Eventually the Man does awaken and begins to heal. What becomes clearer and clearer as the film goes on, is that while Seamus is looking for something, both the Man and James are trying to hide. Both have taken some wrong turns in their lives, but both are good people. Through flashbacks, we find out why James is the sullen teenage boy he is, but we never get to find out exactly who the Man is. Despite their differences, Seamus tries to show James how alike they really are, starting with the mere fact that the name Seamus is a derivative of the name James.
Once I was able to make my way around the characters’ heavy Irish brogues, I found a film that while dark, it also played on all my beliefs of fate and everything happening for a reason. Again, it depends on everyone’s individual faith and belief systems, but maybe Seamus never met God in a physical form, but maybe God brought these two men to him. This could have been what God felt this boy needed in the last days of his life, the support of two strangers, or to offer support to the strangers.
Again, depending on your own personal beliefs, the ending will work right into them. If you believe there is no God, you won’t find Him here. If you believe there is a God, you will find him. But do we ever find Him, or does He always find us?
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