Northern Ireland

'I, Dolours' review: An unsettling watch, but lacking in revelations

A still from the film I, Dolours
A still from the film I, Dolours

THE idea of watching an explosive, never-before-seen interview from beyond the grave has a curious, morbid appeal to it.

That is the central premise behind I, Dolours. In 2010, Dolours Price gave an interview to journalist Ed Moloney, on the condition that it would not be aired until after her death.

This grainy footage forms the backbone of what becomes a disturbing epitaph of a woman who devoted herself unquestioningly to the IRA, but ultimately became disillusioned and haunted by her past.

Price recounts her life growing up in a staunchly republican family in west Belfast and rising through the ranks of the IRA, which led to her driving alleged informers across the border to their deaths and being jailed for bombing the Old Bailey in London.

No other voices or perspectives trickle into the narrative. It helps the film enthral by focusing solely on Price, but the decision may also face criticism from some who see it as lacking in scrutiny.

The film splices the single-camera interview with news footage and reconstructed sequences of her life using actors.

Single-sentence title screens rip-roar through the history of the Troubles cut against archive footage, mostly the bangs of exploding bombs.

This might seem broad-brush to a home audience but simplifies matters for the uninitiated, perhaps for Netflix subscribers down the line.

In the main, the package fuses well. Lorna Larkin, who plays a young Price, solidly captures her essence through unblinking eyes, even if the accent is a little off.

The archive footage also helps to put Price's life in context of key events, from Margaret Thatcher taking office as British prime minister to hunger striker Bobby Sands's death.

There are a few hammy moments, such as when Larkin wipes a misty reflection to reveal a Price from the interview footage staring back at her.

Price recalls her involvement in the murder of Jean McConville clinically and coldly, even calling her "very arrogant".

Her only moment of sympathy for her victims is saved for another of the Disappeared, Joe Lynskey, who she says was a "gentle, gentle man" and whom she wished had tried to escape.

After years in jail took its toll – including being force-fed while on hunger strike and developing anorexia ­– Price became angered with the direction of Sinn Féin and mainstream republicanism towards the peace process, seeing it as selling out.

A flashcard on how she died in 2013 after taking a toxic mix of prescribed medications only hints at the mental health issues she developed.

As a last memoir and portrait of Price, I, Dolours acts as an unsettling but captivating watch.

The problem is that the interview central to the story is not particularly revelatory. Price has given interviews before and has spoken about many of these matters.

An unseen interview locked away for so long in the vaults teases the prospect of an explosive account brimming with new information, but I, Dolours ultimately fails to deliver any great shocks.