The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid

This documentary by Feargal Ward has been shown on the Irish film festival circuit for a while now and had it’s television debut on RTÉ 1 last night. It tells the story of Thomas Reid, a Kildare farmer who is approached by the IDA to sell his land so that the American microchip company intel can expand it’s influence in the area. We meet Feargal, siting in his century old farmhouse which has been passed down to him by his family, he is surrounded by newspapers which are sure to go back thirty years or more, to say that he is a hoarder would be an understatement. The carpet, the furniture and décor look of a similar vintage, in short Thomas and his surroundings have seen better days. Thomas however seems proud that he has managed to keep things going for as long as he has, he is a hoarder and is presented as a bit of a hermit, indicated by no means least by the film’s title.

There is a quiet, slow pace to the documentary and the only contact that Thomas seems to have with the outside world, apart from the IDA officials who call to his farm persistently in the hope that he’ll relent, are the people he meets at his local supermarket. The pace of the production, the isolation that our protagonist feels is, in turn felt by the viewer as he is increasingly left to his own devices. Only through the odd interaction with the film makers does the viewer know that Thomas Reid is not totally alone.

At the same time Feargal Ward does not play this as a pure straight forward documentary with obscure, almost surreal courtroom interactions played out in the fields surrounding Thomas’ farm, this makes the proceedings a little bit out of the ordinary and gets the audiences attention, in no way distracting from the narrative.

There is a still, quiet atmosphere throughout the documentary, thus emphasising the isolation and loneliness felt by Thomas Reid, which is only compounded by his treatment by the authorities. This narrative tool aids the director in winning over the audience to Thomas’ plight all the more.

Every so often there is nondiegetic radio footage of Thomas’s case as presented on The Pat Kenny Show, and it works as a narrative tool. It provides just enough information for the audience, who perhaps do not know about the case fully, without the need of a voiceover style commentary.

The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid is a heart warming, life affirming David v Goliath tale that draws the audience into Thomas Reid’s world and wills him on quietly and modestly until it’s conclusion. A must watch.