Garage, (18)

The director-writer team of Lenny Abrahamson and Mark O'Halloran have followed up their superb odd-couple tragicomedy Adam & Paul (2004) with a film that's even more laconic and touching in its portrayal of narrow lives. Pat Shortt plays Josie, a gentle and rather simple fellow who tends a petrol station on the outskirts of a small Irish town. Patronised by his boss and mocked by the locals, Josie clings doggedly to his solitary routines, his only escape from monotony the secret crush he nurses on a shopgirl (Anne-Marie Duff), and the company of his new teenage assistant (Conor J Ryan), whose worldliness he badly misjudges.

As a study in loneliness, this is magnificent, sparely directed by Abrahamson and beautifully played by Shortt, whose roly-poly walk and innocent gaze could break your heart, if they haven't already melted it. It should be considered one of the great performances of the year. Peter Robertson's cinematography is unobtrusively intimate, and in certain moments – Josie staring absently out of a window, bathed in light – it has the look of a modern Vermeer, while distant shots of the petrol station evoke Hopper.

The film's 18 certificate is mystifying, incidentally, given that there's no sex or violence in it. Indeed, hardly anything at all seems to happen, yet in its patient detailing of a certain way of life – isolated, inarticulate, yet curiously hopeful – everything happens.

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