The Black Guelph

DRAMA; 2hr 5min

STARRING: Graham Earley, Paul Roe, Tony Doyle, Denise McCormack, Lauren Larkin

Man in black: Earley

The yards could not be any harder for Dublin Irish Travellers Kanto (Earley) and his neglectful father, Dan (Roe). Kanto is a penny-ante drug dealer with a little girl he rarely sees and an ex-girlfriend (Larkin) who unsurprisingly disapproves of pretty much every move he makes. Dan is a homeless thief whose childhood abuse by a reform school priest haunts him still and whom Kanto is less than pleased to encounter when he turns up seeking a reunion. Not that Kanto deserves a pulpit, either: his drug abuse is a monkey on his back, he’s in debt to his supplier (film-maker John Connors), which never ends well, and his parenting skills are erratic at best.


Given the punishing conditions with which the ethnic community of Irish Travellers is forced to deal, it figures that the only direction in which Kanto will be travelling is a vertical descent. Dan looks to be faring somewhat better, striking up a supportive relationship with nervy astrophysics student Virgil (Doyle) and his conflicted mother, Beatrice (McCormack). But with a definitive court case looming and an overall vibe of grimed-in despair from Connors and his co-writer Tiernan Williams, there are zero guarantees.


As per the dictionary definition, a Guelph is “a member of one of two great factions in Italian medieval politics, traditionally supporting the Pope against the Holy Roman emperor,” much as the children of Irish Travellers were left unsupported by a shielded Catholic church. As a Traveller himself, first-time director Connors knows the bitter truths of which he speaks, leaving no muck-encrusted stone unturned in the speaking of them. Inflamed by Earley’s self-flagellating performance, this grinding cycle of poverty, trauma and addiction, and the helpless pain it universally breeds, is less a passive viewing experience than a thumping run of body blows.