Welcome to the launch of Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten or unknown film and TV credits. From the shows you always wanted to try but lukewarm reviews made a low priority, to movies you never realized existed, each week will feature five works from an artist chosen by TNC contributors. This week’s actor…
With his breakout role as Stuart Alan Jones on Queer As Folk: UK, Aidan Gillen has appeared in everything from blockbusters (Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, The Dark Knight Rises), to renowned television dramas (The Wire, Love/Hate) to critically hailed but (criminally) under seen indies (Treacle Jr., Sing Street). Where many will recognize him from is Game of Thrones, where he plays the calculating Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. With a smirk that could kill, there’s a reason he frequently gets cast as the bad guy, yet villains (if you would call them that) are only one side to his range of extensive, layered characters.
Buddy Boy (1999)
Directed and Written by Mark Hanlon
The DVD box heralds Buddy Boy as a mix of Roman Polanski and David Lynch. I can’t speak for the former but there are definite Lynchian qualities to this movie, with Hitchcockian cherries on top. Francis (Gillen) lives with his mother, Sal (Susan Tyrrell), cooking her meals and carrying her to bed when she blacks out. While hampered by a prosthetic foot, Sal seems to get around just fine when she puts her mind to it and is using her son’s self-conscious stutter and strict Catholic upbringing to keep him under her reign. Things start to change when one night, while taking out the trash, Francis comes across a perfectly peephole sized hole in the wall. Suddenly able to peer into the apartment across the street, it’s only natural that the residence be occupied by a single woman who hates curtains (Emmanuelle Seigner, who is married to Polanski in real life). But before you can say Norman Bates, there’s a point to these Psycho and Rear Window homages and it’s not to rip them off for a “best of” collage.
Set before the world went digital, back when photos had to be developed from rolls of film, Buddy Boy‘s theme of being watched feels more organic without today’s modern technologies. We think we know how Francis will end up from looking at the film’s influences, but this slowly gets subverted as more information is given about his family’s past, playing with expectations raised by common narrative elements.
Francis is exactly the kind of restrained part Aidan Gillen is a master at capturing. Even at his most sympathetic there was always something inherently sinister and creepy about Anthony Perkins’ Norman in Psycho. Francis, meanwhile, whose hobby of whittling is a far cry from taxidermy, seems well-intentioned, approaching life not from a warped sense of right and wrong but an inflated religious guilt that comes with its own set of problems. Unable to completely put his faith in any God or person (and given that his preacher, Father Gillepsie (Harry Groener), delivers monologues like these, who can blame him), his spying appears to come less from a place of sexual gratification (though there’s that, too) but a quest to find someone he can believe in. The trouble is that for Francis, seeing is believing. As he gets to know his neighbor personally, growing contradictions in what she tells him and what he sees become an obsession, one that also establishes him as an unreliable narrator.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
With psychological thrillers, enjoying the ride doesn’t guarantee sticking the landing. Buddy Boy closes on a note of ambiguity that leaves it thrilling from start to finish.
Check back tomorrow for a look at Aidan Gillen’s performance in a TV adaptation of a famous author’s book.