A Bend in the River (2020) Movie Script

I am a man of the North.
Names like Altamuskin,
Sixmilecross and Ballygawley
roll off my tongue like
water over in mill wheel.
I am made of rain, nettles and thick moss,
trees and wind.
I am stories handed down like heirlooms.
Cu Chulainn, Aine, Maeve,
war, church, famine, fairies.
I could be an Irishman
anywhere in the world,
but somehow I have been delivered
back to this place, home.
Home, what does it mean?
- Do you remember who used to live here?
- It's old Mrs. Rodgers house, isn't it?
Dead as a doornail at Winnyhaw.
But don't worry, I checked
the place for ghosts.
Come on, let's get you settled.
There's not much in here, as you can see.
Got it stocked up earlier,
got a few of the basics,
teabags, milk, sugar,
bread, peanut butter.
There's a kettle.
Do you want me to light
a bit of a fire for ya?
- No.
- You know where to find me, okay?
St. Anthony and St Jude,
they're a big help to me.
- Dear God, Matt, look at yourself.
What is going on with you?
You're a great writer, Matt,
or at least you were.
But that was 10 years ago.
10 years and not even
an essay or a review.
You're a writer,
writers write, that's what they do.
You need to stop running.
When was the last time
you were back in Ireland?
10, 20 years ago?
-26 years, whoa.
What the fuck did they
do to you back there?
When I was a boy,
my best friend Declan and I built a dam
to mark the beginning of summer.
Every year,
we went to the same bend in the river
at the bottom of Packie McKenna's meadow.
There was a spot there right
next to an old apple orchard,
where the river yawned
against the deep mossy bank,
creating a wide, crescential well
that was just perfect for a swimming hole.
We'd strip down to our shorts
and wade into the river,
dragging big clots of mucky sod
that we'd dug from the bank,
slapping them down in
a row on the river bed,
embracing them with large stones
and thick stubby branches,
the water rising about our ankles,
until at last we could take a
run from the field and leap,
knowing it was deep enough
to catch us when we fell.
- A lovely fur coat he was
wearing too, I can tell you.
-Fox, I think it was.
-I don't understand.
-Was it a man or a woman?
-Oh, for God's shake.
It was a man,
as far as I can tell, wearing a fur coat
and a head scarf of an
indeterminant fabric.
We exchanged pleasantries
and I went on my way.
Simple as that.
I'm not about to cast aspersions
on his or her or its gender,
it's no business of mine,
and nor should it be any of yours.
-Morning, Joe.
-Good morning, Katie.
- What's all the excitement this morning?
- Seems Pat had a bit of
a fright this morning.
- Pat's only after seeing some stranger
coming out of old Mrs. Rodgers's
turf shed like a ghost.
Scared the life out of him.
He was wearing a fur coat and a fur scarf.
Anyway, I wanna head on home here.
I need to lay down for a bit.
- Two stamps, please, Joe.
And if you would put
those in the box for me.
-Oh, surely.
-Big day, Pat?
- Oh, no, nothing new to me.
Sure if we were in New York,
nobody would pass about remarks.
- Was he good looking?
Sure, don't you know him?
- Me, how would I know him?
- Father Donnelly's brother,
the lad that went away to
America about 25 years ago,
the writer, sure wasn't
they a neighbor of yours?
Matt, I think his name was.
Will that be everything for today, Katie?
- Yes, Joe, thank you.
-Yes, all the best.
-All the best, Katie.
I see we still haven't
mastered them bastards out.
Gerry, could you slow down a bit?
Gerry, please?
Jesus Christ.
- Who in the fuck was
that with Father Donnelly?
He looked a bit like Matt.
- When did that fucker get back here?
- Hey, come on, we can head
to the Cross for a pint.
- He better not think he's
moving back home around here.
I can tell you that.
You, Donnelly, who told you to sit down?
Stand up.
There we go, there we go.
All right, here we go, come on.
-You didn't recognize me?
-No, I did.
- Liar.
- Still as beautiful as ever.
I'm sorry, that's
terrible, I just got back.
It's been weird.
Oh, were you away?
How are you getting on at
the cottage on your own?
- How do you know where I'm staying?
- Oh, you have been away too long
if you think the yank can land back here
without everybody for a 20 mile radius
having an opinion about it.
- The mailman?
- I was in the post office
yesterday when he'd come in.
He looked like he'd seen a ghost.
Just glad to see you're
not doing your shopping
in a skirt and a pair of high heels.
- It was cold, I didn't have a jacket.
- You don't have to
convince me you're not gay.
I remember.
You two know each other?
I'm sorry I missed
your call, after the beep.
Sorry I missed your call.
Please leave a message after the beep.
At the tone,
please record your message.
When you are finished recording,
you may hang up or press
one for more options.
Been a while since you've been
in one of these, I suppose.
- 25 years, give or take a wedding or two.
Did scare you that badly?
- I never much believes in fairytales.
- That's not true.
I remember when you were little.
You believed in all kinds of magic.
- Then I grew up.
-That was a pity.
-It is a pity.
-I saw Katie at the store.
-A wee word of advice,
my American brother, steer clear of Katie.
And a further piece of advice,
stay well clear of Declan Hughes.
He's a dangerous man, Matt.
- Bet he's in here every
Sunday on his knees
with his tongue out,
waiting for the sacrament.
- Not New York now, Matt.
People around here have
a way of doing things.
Come on.
Come with me.
I can see you now,
pegging the white flapping
sheets in the breeze,
and in the scullery,
your hands at a bowl of dough, kneading,
a trace of flour in your hair, like age.
It was said you made the best loaf
of bread in all of Altamuskin,
folded secrets into the
dough, fed them to us.
Pain, love, loss,
the flour of all that went unsaid,
the salt on the tongue like a mystery
bloomed in my heart like a rose.
What madness drove you to the river?
What might I have done to save you
from that cold, wet grave?
Mother, I am so sorry I didn't come home.
You have got
to get your heads out of
the clouds with this clown.
Jesus, he walked out on you 20 years ago.
-26 years ago.
Seriously, was he that good in the sack?
- Maggie, I loved him.
- He's a fantasy, for God's sake.
- Would you rather I stayed with Declan?
- I'd rather you stay alive.
Do you seriously think Declan Hughes
is gonna sit back and let
you walk off into the sunset
with this loser?
- Two packets of cigarettes, please?
- Yeah, what kind would you like?
Doesn't matter.
What's the damage?
- That's 24.70, please.
-Are you American?
24.70, wow, I have been gone too long.
- What part were you in, New York?
-How'd you guess?
-You sure don't look
-like no heck.
-Very good.
- It's where I'm headed as
soon as I get my act together.
What, you don't like it here?
-Pfft, this hole?
-Surely it can't
-be that bad.
-Tell you what,
why don't you take my job in here,
and I go out to your cottage
and do your writing for you,
-how does that sound?
word does travel fast around here.
- And I heard about those
women's clothes bit too.
Pretty sure you've got a damned
good excuse for that outfit.
- I do, it's called "cold".
- Well, if you ever need warming up...
- Jesus, Gerry, you scared
the shite out of me.
What are you doing, checking up on me?
- Well, the last person
that lived in this house
had we carried out feet first.
I'm taking no chances, here.
-What's this?
-It's an old photo album.
It was our mother's, you should have it.
You're the one who wanted
to rummage through the past.
There's some of it there.
What would you call this?
-Lovely to see you.
It's a fine day.
- Yeah, it's a lovely day.
It would be nice to see a bit of sun.
- Oh, it'd be great to
see a bit of sun, great.
Break the clouds, it'd
be nice, yeah, nice.
Right, well, I'll be off.
I have things to do, good to see ya.
- I'm not interrupting anything?
- Oh, no, not at all, was
just on me way anyway.
I have to see a man about a dog.
- Jesus, my timing's impeccable.
What must he think of me,
showing up here like this?
- Well, look at the bright
side, he'll never tell a soul.
- I hope not, Declan would
kill me if he knew I was here.
I was just bringing you a bit of food.
-Thanks, tea?
- Tea, we still do that
in this country, don't we?
Make the visitor a cup of tea?
She kept
-a tidy wee house.
-She did,
she did keep a tidy wee house.
But it's strange, everything's
still in the same place.
It's like I've landed back in the past.
- And now you're back,
or are you just on a fly-in visit?
- I don't think I could
make it around here anymore.
- You've been Americanized?
- Well, it has been my
home for over 20 years.
-I'm sorry.
-Don't, please don't.
- I should have written to you.
- You have nothing to apologize for.
It was a long time ago.
We were just kids, for God's sake.
But I think that you
should have this back.
- Look, when I got there,
it's hard to explain.
I mean, it was crazy,
right from the moment
the lads collected me
from the airport.
And it all comes at you
so fast, the newness.
A month has gone by, and then two months.
Then, in the blink of an
eye, a year's gone by.
I see the Statue of Liberty one morning
through the window of the
van on my way to work,
and I remembered how much
you wanted to see it.
And it fucking killed me.
- But not enough for you
to write to me even then.
Don't worry about it, I saw it.
Wasn't that impressed, as it happens.
I have to go.
You broke our mother's heart
when you left, you know?
She idolized you, that woman.
Her son, the writer, wow.
And there was a story she could
take to the shop everyday.
I'm not saying you killed her.
You didn't.
She had health issues in the end.
Depression, terrible, terrible
depression, God love her.
But you didn't fucking help it, Matt.
You didn't fucking help it one bit.
What did I ever do to you, brother?
What did we ever do to you?
- God, you scared the life out of me.
- Sorry about that.
I suppose you're gonna go
and put that in one of your
books now, too, are you?
- How did you know I'm a writer?
- My God, you've been gone a long time.
And you don't remember your neighbors.
Didn't you come down and
build a dam every year
at the bottom of my field?
- Packie?
- I'd have to come down
at the end of the summer
and tumble it meself, of course.
- I thought you were dead years ago.
- That would explain the
lack of a Christmas card.
- Reason out here, hiding behind hedges,
scaring people half to death?
People must think you're mad.
- They'd be right, I'm
getting madder by the day.
I'm patching holes in these
hedges to keep the sheep in.
You got yourself a nice wee house
-for your situation, I see.
-It is a nice wee house.
- Poor old Mary, dead a week in there
before the mailman got a sniff of her.
If she'd been on the Facebook,
they'd have found her sooner.
The whole country's
gone mad, if you ask me.
They've disappeared,
they're all indoors now,
lost in their own little screens.
You never see a child outside anymore.
They wouldn't know their
way down to the river
if you led them by the ear.
I have one wee word of
advice for you, though.
Watch that girl's husband
doesn't catch her up here,
sniffing around your undergarments
while he's out at work.
I don't know how you operate
these things over there
in America, but around here,
you mess with a man like Declan Hughes,
you better brace yourself for a storm.
There's skeletons out here
in these fields, you know,
skeletons of men ever bit
as smart as you or me,
men who didn't see the storm coming.
- A lot's changed since I've been gone.
At least there's peace now
that the troubles have ended.
- Peace me hole.
Where'd you read that shite?
The trouble's not over
in this country, boy.
Not as long
as there's still an
Englishman wearing a uniform.
Don't kid yourself about that.
- We are opposed to a united Ireland
and we will not have a united Ireland.
And I say to the Dublin government,
if they don't behave
themselves in the South,
it will be shots across the border.
It'll never be over,
not unless we're all one country again,
the way the good Lord intended it.
North to South, East to
West, sea to shining sea.
If it was up to me,
there wouldn't even be
a wall or a fence on it.
By God, it's some country
to look at, just the same
if you take a moment to lift your head
to see past the mess we've made of it.
Oh, so you are alive?
Your son cried himself to
sleep again last night.
What do you want me to tell him,
that you're in Ireland
writing or thinking?
Is that what you're
doing, you're thinking?
- I'm sorry, Sarah, you're right.
I've gotta go, I
cannot do this right now.
What the fuck
did they do to you back there?
You broke our mother's heart
when you left, you know?
It was a long time ago.
We were just kids, for God's sake.
There's skeletons out here
in these fields, you know,
skeletons of men every bit
as smart as you and me.
You okay?
- Katie?
Katie, what are you doing here?
- Well, I was just driving
past and I saw the car.
I did call your name.
I waited for you, you know, heartbroken?
Everybody talked behind my back.
"Poor wee girl, left behind like that."
They all said you were no good.
But I defended you,
every chance I got, I defended you.
I waited, and I waited,
every day for two whole years
like a dog for the postman.
And I waited.
- You shouldn't be here,
Katie, you should go.
- No, maybe you should go.
Go back to your America
before something bad happens.
- Fine, I'll leave.
- Yes, you leave, go,
go back to your America!
I don't even know what
you came back here for!
Get the fuck off me!
There's that fucking stray again.
Here doggie, here.
- Put that thing in a bag
and throw it in the boot of the car.
- Now, good morning, everybody.
Thank you all very much
for coming along today
to land your support.
-My first...
-Tickets for the raffle?
- How much are they?
-10 for fiver.
- We're already up to 500 pounds
and dinner for two at Kelly's Inn.
So, some lucky duck is going
home today a very happy camper,
-I can tell you.
-That's great,
-thank you.
-All right.
- Thanks a million.
- Father Donnelly, come
on down onto the field,
Father Donnelly, there he is.
Good man, come on down onto
the field, come on here.
Good man, good man.
-Dig deep, Father.
-I certainly will.
Ah, this is a bit awkward, Matt Donnelly.
Matt, come on down here and
get your prize, come on.
Matt Donnelly,
congratulations, just back from America.
-Who said that?
- Now, now, let's not be sore losers.
Matt won fair and square.
Well done, Matt, dinner
for two at Kelly's Inn.
If you don't have a date, I
myself am available to eat.
- You better watch yourself, yank.
But if I ever hear you near my wife again,
I'm gonna gut you like a fucking pig.
- Jesus Christ, you
frightened the life out of me.
What are you doing,
sitting here in the dark?
-Hello, Katie.
-You okay,
'cause you're being a bit weird?
Have you been a good girl?
- I don't like this,
Declan, and I wanna put...
- I said has my wee Katie
been a good wee girl?
Because if I find out that you weren't
and doing something really,
really fucking stupid,
then Daddy's gonna be so
angry with his wee girl.
- Are you gonna beat me with that?
- No, how did you get here?
I walked.
- Let me get you a towel.
I won't be needing a towel.
I like being wet.
Are you working on another book?
I read your last one too, you know?
"Cinder's Landing", I loved that book.
Is this one a love story too?
- I don't know.
- Am I in it yet?
- Are you nervous about
me touching your stuff?
What do you think I'm gonna do to you?
- Half the bloody parish is here.
We should say mass in
here on a Sunday morning.
- Ay, we could charge for the wine.
-Two pints, please.
-Two pints,
- Listen, I'd like to propose a toast.
To my wee brother, Matt, the writer,
to his new book and to his safe return
to his family in America.
To your new book.
- Are you late for an appointment?
- Would you not think about writing one
about growing up in Tyrone?
Like that, what was that called?
"Angela's Ashes", yeah,
Matt, why don't you write us a story
about your miserable
Northern Ireland childhood?
Start with the terrible beating
you took in primary school.
That's a good one.
- He beat me unconscious
in a room full of kids.
- So, who can tell me
something about France?
You, Donnelly, stand up.
What's the first thing
that pops into your head
-when I say, "France"?
What in God's
name made you think of onions?
I seen it in the television, Sir.
- You saw onions on the television.
- It was a cartoon about France.
The man had onions around his neck.
- Garlic, he had a string
of garlic around his neck.
-Is that what you saw?
-I suppose so, Sir.
-Stop mumbling, speak up.
-Yes, garlic.
Don't you shout at me.
You yell at me in my classroom?
Stop, leave him alone.
- Katie Corrigan, get back to your seat.
-Leave him alone.
-Get back
-to your seat, Katie Corrigan.
-Leave him alone.
Get back to your seat.
- This is not over, asshole.
It's a nice wee house.
- Jesus, what are you doing here?
-Don't be mad at me, Mattie.
-Well, you're
-in my fucking house.
-No, Mattie, I'm your friend,
Mattie, Mattie, no, no, Mattie.
- What are you doing here, Paudy?
- I heard you're telling stories, Mattie.
That's good.
Hey, hey, hey, you remember
that time in old Cooney's class
when you got beat up?
- Ay, I remember.
- Paudy saved, Paudy saved you.
- No, I remember it was
Katie that saved me.
- No, no, no, Paudy saved
you, Paudy saved you.
1981, August 26th, two p.m.,
I had a blue shirt on me.
You remember your blue shirt, Mattie?
You remember your blue shirt?
I remember.
Oh, it's the priest.
Mattie, Declan's mad at you,
Mattie, Declan's very mad at you.
- Bye, son.
- What did wee Paudy want?
- Borrowed some sugar.
- Are you all right, Matt?
Look at the state of you.
- I'm trying to write.
- This place smells like a bloody brewery.
- Don't come in here
and lecture me, Gerry!
- Or what, you'll run away again?
- I didn't run away!
- For a writer, you're not too fond
of hearing the truth, Mattie.
And for God's sake, will you
tidy this place up a bit?
You mother didn't raise you to be a tramp.
- I have been torn in
two over the Atlantic.
An Irishman in America,
an American in Ireland,
betrayed by a brogue on one side,
eternal optimism on the other.
I am native in neither, easily
silenced both here and there.
I live now in the parish of memory,
create castles out of my childhood,
fly my Yankee-tinged brogue as my flag.
I have become one
of the ghost Irish, those who moved away,
those with a heart that
will never be fully at rest.
What are you doing here?
- My idea is it must be nice being you,
mess with their fucking color,
breezing in an out of
people's fucking lives,
taking what you want when you want it.
- What the fuck you doing here, Declan?
You can't do this.
You can't go around with a gun
in your hand, bullying people.
It's not the fucking 1970s!
- Well, that's where
you're wrong, asshole,
because as far as I'm concerned,
I can do whatever I like here.
I earned my right to stay in this country!
I stayed and I fought,
and what did you do?
You ran away to America
and you left the fighting to the real men.
- Please, please, Declan.
- You don't think I wanted to run,
you don't think that I wanted to escape?
You don't deserve to live here
and you don't deserve Katie.
Go home, Yank.
- Don't start.
I need you to come with me.
- Where are we going?
- You'll find out when we get there.
Come on, let's go.
Are you visiting someone?
- No, you are.
- Who am I visiting?
- Master Cooney.
- I thought he was dead.
- That's his house over there.
- No way.
- There's a power to
your past in that house.
Do yourself a favor, go over there,
knock on the door, and face it for once.
It's time to stop
running away from it all.
- I'm here to see Master Cooney.
Okay, come on, I'll take you to him.
- Who told you to sit down?
On your feet.
- No, no, no, no, she went
downstairs, you're okay.
- Donnelly, Matt Donnelly.
Good boy, oh, you were a good boy.
- I've carried you around
with me my whole life.
And now, look at you.
- I'm not much to look at now.
Age, they don't teach you that at school.
They should do.
92 years on this planet, and
the only thing I've learned
with complete certainty is
you grow old and you die.
I did my best.
You wrote a book, I read it, yes.
We're all proud of ya, I was proud of ya.
And you will write another book.
- I don't think I've got another in me.
You will write, you'll write.
Home, home, seen
from the window of a plane,
she has a patchwork quilt,
little square fields of
green stitched together
by thin rows of thorns,
spring green, fern green,
forest green, pine seed, Shamrock green.
From above, she is clean,
mystical, magical to behold.
That is her first great act of deceit,
her lush, rolling beauty, the
first betrayal of her truth,
for on the ground, and deeper still,
buried beneath that
venerate lawn is her pain.
Underneath, there is blood.
What price had the past
exacted on each of us?
Mother, Cooney, Katie, Declan?
- Where have you been all evening?
Not now, Declan.
- Look, they're daffodils.
You used to love daffodils, remember?
Please don't leave me.
- What did any of it mean?
Catholic, Protestant, Irish, English,
words designated to keep us apart,
words with borders all their own,
each one of us armed and
insulated with a version
of the past we deem to be true,
holding in each other at
arm's length over a flag
or some unresolved hurt.
How many lives is a field worth?
No one escaped the wound,
each of us carry a scar.
Declan had chosen the gun.
I must honor this pen,
invite small miracles
into the incubator of my heart,
come home to the poetry of myself.
It was time for me to let go of the past,
of the wreckage I'd been
wearing like a suit of armor.
I too had lost sight of
what was in front of me,
family, friends, forests and fern,
daffodils and birdsong, rivers and fields,
nettle, rose and thorn
hedge, fog and foxtrot,
mountains, moss and meadows,
a heart haunted by the
ghosts of poets in rentals.
Sarah, I love you.
Give Lucas a hug for me.
I'm coming, I'm coming home.
The wild richness of this place,
here was a stranger's smile,
there, a small act of kindness or decency.
This was not the North,
South, East or West.
The land was the land wherever
you happened to stand on it.
Packie was right, it
really was a great country
if only you could lift your head
to see past the mess we've made of it.
It was time to stop running.
It was time to go home.