Barber (2023) Review

Barber (2023) Review

Exploring the Detective Life

Greetings and meetings seem to define the life of a detective. Without any personal connections, Valentine Barber, the central character of the new film “Barber,” lacks vitality. He’s a contemporary detective who emphasizes that time is of the essence, but more importantly, his hourly rate is 50 dollars plus expenses. That’s his signature ‘cool’ line. It’s almost as if the film is committed to being anti-climactic in every scene.

Aiden Gillen’s Captivating Performance

I’ve always appreciated Aiden Gillen as an actor. I first saw him in “The Wire” before his role in “Game of Thrones,” and his distinctive smile and elusive accent have always captivated me. However, it ultimately boils down to the quality of filmmaking. If the camera fails to capture the actor’s actions, everything else is in vain.

The Intriguing Case of Sara Dunne

Directed by Fintan Connolly, “Barber” commences as a somber detective tale. The disappearance of a girl is a compelling start. Barber, akin to J.J. Gittes in “Chinatown,” reluctantly takes on the case. He typically deals with minor frauds and occasionally catches housewives in compromising situations. However, locating Sara Dunne doesn’t really engage him.

Navigating Barber’s Personal Life

As the film endeavors to proclaim – being a private detective is simply another job – Barber approaches the case with the same sense of duty, much like a diligent freelancer. The journey this film embarks upon is where it truly shines. Barber’s marriage has ended, and his daughter suffered an accident not long ago. Both parents are dedicated to her. If Barber’s day wasn’t consumed by work, he had his ‘other’ life to fill it.

Kate: A Poignant Character

Barber’s daughter, Kate, recuperating from a neurological ailment, is the most endearing character in the entire film. Her hands tremble due to her condition, and she despises her own body. It’s often heart-wrenching to witness. The agony she endures. Setting aside childhood traumas, Kate is the only character I truly connected with.

The Investigation Unfolds

Barber continues his encounters and inches closer to finding Sara Dunne, whose case was presented by her grandmother, Lily Dunne. This investigation leads him to a minister named Eunan Brady, whose collar one wouldn’t want to grab if they desired a peaceful life in Dublin.

Barber’s Cinematic Execution

“Barber” is a film overly self-absorbed, to the point of being lackluster. It feels like a boy at a library, his nose buried too deep in a book. It lacks a clear sense of structure. Val Barber is a fascinating character on paper. A bisexual man who navigates the ‘old’ Ireland and finds his footing in the ‘woke’ era, with the private detective aspect adding a unique flavor to the narrative.

The Struggle with Execution

However, “Barber” is created with the assumption that simply touching on topics like ‘me too’ and ‘wokeness’ is sufficient to make the film engaging. The issue, as I see it, lies in the convolution of the first half. When clarity finally emerges in the second half, no one really knows how to seamlessly integrate these themes into the storyline.

Cinematic Influences and Limitations

The vitality of this ‘new’ Ireland fails to reach us. There’s an evident influence from Roman Polanski’s films “Ghost Writer” and “Chinatown.” However, Fintan lacks the resources or skill that Polanski possesses in composing shots that inherently convey meaning, regardless of the plot.

Missed Opportunities

“Barber” touches on a multitude of contemporary and crucial topics in our present culture. Issues like abuse of power and harassment are so prevalent that films must be made to unveil these stories, giving voice to those who are seldom represented on screen.

Crafting a Narrative: Challenges and Pitfalls

I sense that politically charged films can’t have the sense of being reverse-engineered, as they don’t thrive under those conditions. The character should take precedence, and then the narrative should naturally lead them toward what we, the audience, also wish to explore in our own lives.

Balancing Message and Narrative

“Barber” gives off the overwhelming impression that it must address pressing issues in a specific sequence and crafts Valentine Barber in a way that ensures these topics are tackled. In a genre film, this is acceptable. For instance, if I desire specific beats and themes that have been employed countless times before and I construct a character to fit them, it seems justified. The film might even cut costs this way, but this style of writing doesn’t work in a non-genre film like this.

Pacing and Performance

The movie insists on cramming everything into a brief timeframe, sacrificing organicity. Aiden Gillen’s distinctive delivery lends gravitas to Barber but results in a lackluster performance. The crux of the matter lies in the writing. Explanations abound, except when the runtime is nearing its end and the film rushes through like a lightweight sports car. The hitch is that Barber is a sluggish truck being maneuvered poorly, and it doesn’t exude coolness while executing its maneuvers.


1. What is the central theme of “Barber”?

“Barber” explores the life of Valentine Barber, a modern-day detective, as he navigates through personal challenges while taking on a case to find a missing girl named Sara Dunne. The film delves into themes of identity, relationships, and the complexities of being a private detective.

2. How does the film handle contemporary issues like abuse of power and harassment?

The film touches on these pressing topics by incorporating them into the narrative, shedding light on the experiences of those affected. However, some viewers may find that the execution of these themes lacks seamless integration, particularly in the first half of the film.

3. What distinguishes Valentine Barber as a character?

Valentine Barber is portrayed as a bisexual man who has survived the cultural shifts of Ireland. His role as a private detective adds an intriguing dimension to his character, highlighting the intersection of personal identity and professional responsibilities.

4. What challenges does the film face in terms of its execution?

“Barber” grapples with issues related to pacing and performance. While Aiden Gillen’s performance as Barber brings depth to the character, the writing occasionally leans towards over-explanation. This, coupled with pacing inconsistencies, affects the overall execution of the film.

5. How does the film draw from cinematic influences?

The film shows influence from Roman Polanski’s works, particularly “Ghost Writer” and “Chinatown.” However, it lacks the resources and expertise to replicate the profound visual storytelling found in Polanski’s films, impacting its overall cinematic experience.

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