Lift, the debut feature film from writer / star Kealan Ryan and director Conor Armstrong Sanfey, is a quirky comedy drama that pushes a group of ordinary people into an extraordinary situation and takes delight in pushing their buttons for the duration.

Fiach Kunz plays Sean, a troubled and violent young man who assaults a security guard and leaves him unconscious, but not before making his escape into a passing lift. The predicament Sean finds himself in is that before the guard passes out, he cuts power to the lift, trapping Sean and five other people who were using the lift to leave the office for the weekend. What follows is a morality tale and character study as first impressions and initial assumptions are called into question.

Conor Armstrong Sanfey makes great use of his surrounds to throw some tension into the mix, and the judicious use of his sets means that the viewer feels party to the goings on of the group instead of just a hushed observer. Unfortunately, where the film fails to ignite is when it forcefully tries to be self-knowing and referential, and attempts to prod and poke at the fourth wall simply don’t work. A segment where the characters discuss movie clichés that they despise is time wasted and it is only when the film returns focus to the lean plot that the film regains track.

For an indie movie the acting in Lift is refreshingly natural thanks in no small part to Kealan Ryan’s script and some good chemistry between the cast. The verbal sparring between Sean and the rest of the protagonists doesn’t feel contrived and an air of apprehension starts to creeps in as nerves fray and tempers flare the longer their plight drags on.

Gerard McSorely pops up in a role that becomes more integral to the story as it advances, and while it would have been easy for a veteran actor like him to skate by on past plaudits, he actually injects a lot of warmth and likeability into his character for such a small amount of screen time. It is his relationship with Sean that provides an emotional anchor for the movie and that forces us to call into question our perspective on Sean’s actions.

For the most part the humour fails to hit its mark, but strip away the attempts at a Kevin Smith homage and what you’re left with is a bare-bones, taut drama with enough edginess and emotional impact to endorse it. Lift is a commendable effort for the debutants involved and definitely worth going along for the ride.

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