Real-life crime drama is a genre that should lend itself well to low-budget filmmaking. The sheer amount of true crime podcasts that have been released recently are proof of this and it doesn’t really matter how high the production values are, so long as the subject is interesting enough.
Rainy In Glenageary follows the unsolved case of Dublin schoolgirl Raonaid “Rainy” Murray, who was murdered on her way home from school in 1999. Part haunting true-crime documentary, part a damning look at local law enforcement in Ireland, Rainy In Glenageary is most effective when describing the night of the murder. The way it’s presented is truly harrowing, as is the description of the taxi-cab passenger who may or may not have been the murderer, and this feeling is helped by Ali Coffey’s assured narration and the film’s distinct style. Director Graham Jones uses an admittedly striking visual style, relying almost entirely on some beautiful impressionistic paintings to tell the story.
Jones does well to not sensationalise the murder, presenting it in a matter of fact manner to unnerving effect. The film also paints a vivid picture of Raonaid’s personality and the close bonds that existed within her circle of friends. Using the terminology used by the friends to describe key locations is a nice touch and gives you a real insight into the teenagers’ shared world view. Unfortunately the lack of names to put to these characters, and an absence of any real life contributors does lead to a bit of confusion. There are no aliases, aside from some very on the nose descriptive terms and this only serves to distance the audience, when we should be drawn in.
I don’t want to pick too many nits because the fact is that Rainy In Glenageary shines a light on a case that was never given the exposure it deserved. It’s an unflinching look at a truly tragic event and the closeness Jones has to the subject matter is tangible, as is the passion he feels about the way the local police mishandled the case. This is the aspect that resonated most with me and is something rarely covered in these documentaries – The way Rainy’s friends were treated with disdain and suspicion by the Gardai clearly influenced their willingness to co-operate and may have muddied the waters even further.
Jones has gone to painstaking levels of research here and it shows. There is a lot of data presented in minute, forensic detail but there’s almost too much information. The film often gets hung up on very specific or incidental details that don’t make any impact on the rest of the film. It’s understandable that there would be loose ends in an unsolved murder, but it doesn’t mean that these all need to be in the film. Too many of these threads end up feeling irrelevant or inconclusive and it somewhat dilutes the film’s central message.
Rainy In Glenageary is incredibly powerful in places and it’s to the filmmaker’s credit that there are a handful of moments that really struck a chord. I don’t want to diminish the gravity of the murder, and the repercussions that the community faced subsequently, but as a film this isn’t as engaging as it could be and the presentation of facts often feels more like a clinical presentation rather than an investigative documentary. However, Graham Jones is clearly a talented and relevant voice in documentary filmmaking and with such a distinct style, it’s clear he’s destined for great things.