Nathan Makalena reviews The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid, which had its UK premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest on 8 June.

It wasn’t until the director’s Q+A after The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid that the audience revealed themselves to be every Irish person currently in Sheffield. And what an important film in Ireland’s current political climate. The rights of individuals clashing with the control of the state is something we recently saw resolved, with 66% of citizens voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Here we see just one man, battling to retain his home and livelihood in the face of international business expansion.

The film could very easily have been a drag. There was a lot of context to be explained and at a very base level it could be described as a legal drama (read, usually very dry). However, with seamless use of a radio, Thomas’ only connection to the outside world, Director Feargal Ward, doesn’t end up overexplaining. There is also some of the most appropriate and excellent reenactment seen in any documentary this festival. Ward explained post-film how Thomas would constantly recall his first meeting with the men who sought to buy his land, ‘almost spouting dialogue verbatim’. Ward then photomatched actors to these men and found Thomas, who constantly appeared reserved and aloof, slipped back into the moment seamlessly. The overall effect is halfway between reflection and reality.

The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid is a masterpiece of psychological storytelling. It’s clear Thomas has been a very isolated man for a long time, with no family to console or congratulate him over the course of the film. It’s truly a battle that’s inside his heart and mind. However the translation of this inner battle on to screen feels so natural. In a time of shady big business and steady erosion of human rights this is definitely a piece of cinema to be consumed by the masses to ensure the prolonged protection of Thomas and all those like him.  

5 stars

Image Credit: Sheffield Doc/Fest

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