After the death of his father, eight-year-old Harry Cronin (Hickey) has descended into his own fantasy world. When he believes he has shot his new friend Sean, his "condition" deteriorates and Harry's mother drafts in rugged uncle Tony to restore some masculine order.
Set in 1960 when teenagers listened to Johnny Kidd And The Pirates and their younger siblings sat enraptured by the adventures of Flash Gordon, this small-scale Irish movie begins with minimal impact but gradually proves its heart is bigger than its budget.
Eight-year-old Harry Cronin (Hickey) has retreated into a fantasy world since the death of his father. Each night he communicates by torchlight with a Mercurian spaceship and claims that he has been sent to earth with special powers. When he thinks he has shot his new pal Sean, his "condition" worsens and his tolerant but worried mother (Tushingham) calls in the boy's dishevelled Uncle Tony (Courtenay) to bestow some manly wisdom.
First-time writer-director Duffy can't decide from which angle to view events, so the film is a mixture of objectivity and comical imaginary sequences. And he is guilty of some ragged direction, but he fashions an unsentimental portrait of childhood reality displacement, when trivial incidents are magnified into intractable dilemmas. Harry's fear of a classroom bully, for example, propels him to write his will and demand instant removal back to his own planet.
Though Harry is finally brought down to earth, a cop-out ending is nicely avoided. Courtenay and Tushingham provide brief eccentric turns, but it's Hickey's wide-eyed moon of a face exuding defiant sensitivity that carries this flawed but intermittently enchanting film.
It's Hickey's wide-eyed moon of a face exuding defiant sensitivity that carries this flawed but intermittently enchanting film.