Flooded in neon lights and paired with a booming, brash synthwave-inspired soundtrack – Finky is an atmospheric, drug-fuelled, cynical hurricane. Inspired to infuse Finky with as much colour, absurdity and oddity as possible, director Dathaí Keane strives to mix fantasy and trauma with Cirque du Soleil aesthetics. Filled with notions of pirates, puppets, and carnivals – Finky is a story concerning a lost childhood, the desire to find a place to call home, and the inability to let go of the past. Providing us with non-stop adrenaline-fuelled storytelling and spectacularly captured circus scenes, Keane whips up a riveting, swirling, hedonistic nightmare.
Photo © Finky
Spoken predominantly in the Irish language, Finky is the story of Galway musician/puppeteer Micí Finky Ó Foghlú (Dara Devaney) – aka Finky. Fed up with singing the old folk song ‘The Black Velvet Band’ every night at dead-end gigs and performing puppet shows for children, Finky is a man at odds with his life. One night after a gig, he steals money from his boss and flees to Glasgow with his friend Tom Tom (Eoin Geoghegan) in the hopes of starting a new life. However, once in Glasgow Finky is critically injured in a car accident that leaves him paralysed from the waist down. With less power over his life than ever before, the puppeteer becomes the puppet as Finky is swept up in a whirlwind of manipulation and coercion as he finds himself amongst the extreme and sadistic circus group named Cannibal Chaotica.
Photo © Finky
While Finky is full of ambition, energy and imagination (all things to be applauded), it’s also convoluted, erratic, and hard to fully emerge in. With a breakneck speed introduction to the cast, secondary characters in this dark fable feel removed and underwritten. Instead of feeling like the blazing and daring individuals they are, the majority of the crude and garish Cannibal Chaotica crew appear muted and although they are merely background characters there to serve an aesthetic. The film’s plotlines also seem rushed and muddled and it can be hard to decipher in which direction the story is headed. Finky certainly has a lot to say, which unfortunately means its story becomes indecisive as it flitters back and forth too much; instead of a constant thrill, Finky’s trajectory can grow to be confusing and repetitive.
Rather than being the hero of the story, Finky acts as his very own villain, constantly on a path of self-destruction – ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me’ he sobs to Tom Tom in one scene. Feeling purposely distant and unlikable, Finky is a man who pushes away anyone who gets too close – abandoning the woman who loves him in a café and tearing the blouse of a bystander who tries to help him when he’s in trouble. While this is a notable side effect of someone with something to hide and Devaney does an excellent job in portraying Finky’s turbulent nature – Finky is a protagonist who is hard to reach and ultimately hard to rejoice for.
Photo © Finky
Still struggling with his father’s death and other traumas Finky can’t bear to articulate, Finky is a man on the run – but from what, even he can’t decide. Teasing us with frightful hallucinations and the occasional moment of foreshadowing, Keane hints there is more to Finky’s story than reckless hedonism. He hints that there is a reason why our leading man is so unlikeable, aloof, and self-destructive. This dark secret tailing Finky does not rear its ugly head until near the end of the film. It’s a shocking revelation that does make sense of Finky’s confusing and obscure path and life choices; but it feels although its announcement comes too late into the story after the audience have already crafted a firm apathy for his character.
Finky is a bold and determined venture into experimental filmmaking and exploring the manifestation of trauma, however, its aspiration is let down by its budget and convoluted script. Nonetheless, its preservation of the Irish language is incredibly important and an exciting feature to see amongst modern cinema; as is the film’s refreshing ambition and exuberant visuals.
Written by Abi Aherne