What would the dead tell us, if they could speak? And just how badly would those words mess up the one delivering the message? Homegrown thriller The Messenger poses these questions, but regrettably misses the mark in a script that never quite lands the emotional punch it aspires to.
Jack (Robert Sheehan) can see dead people. Ghosts come to him with their unfinished business, hoping for closure, but he wants none of it. This ability is a burden he’s carried since childhood. To the rest of the world he’s the oddball at the back of the pub talking to himself, or the uninvited guest at their loved one’s funeral spouting final goodbyes.
Caught between the living and the dead, he numbs himself with pills
and booze, wearing his misanthropy like armour.
Murdered journalist Mark (Jack Fox) turns to Jack to get in touch with his widow (Tamzin Merchant). But it’s hardly easy telling a grieving stranger that her dead husband says hi, particularly with no-nonsense DCI Keane (David O’Hara) on the hunt for the killer. The detective is understandably suspicious of Jack’s motives, thinking at best he’s crazy and at worst he could be responsible for Mark’s death.
Jack’s sister (Lily Cole) re-enters his life, hoping to reconnect, but struggles to identify with him, and the audience is left to guess whether these voices are real or in his head.
The Messenger pitches itself as a paranormal horror, but it’s more melodramatic than unnerving. It sits awkwardly between supernatural and psychological thriller, never quite committing to either.
Emotional flashbacks to Jack’s troubled childhood are interwoven, but aren’t enough to save it from a plodding first half and lack of focus. Sheehan brings a lot of sarcastic rage to Jack, but it’s hard to find the will to care for him.
Scenes of the character storming through the countryside, talking over his shoulder, look striking and are probably supposed to add pathos. Instead, they come across as hollow attempts at profundity.
The Messenger feels listless. It never quite gets off the ground, and the characters come across as two-dimensional tropes rather than people worth investing in. It’s a shame, because there’s an interesting premise underneath it all.