"It's not just a house, it's a home. A man's home is his castle!" Those lines might seem like clichés, but to Darryl Kerrigan (Michael Caton) they are fundamental and incontrovertible truths. Darryl is the proud patriarch of the Kerrigan clan, and he views the world with an unshakable sense of optimism. Sure, his house is situated right next to the airport, a toxic landfill, and beneath humming power lines, but to Darryl and the rest of his family, this is home, and he won't let anyone take t away from him. The Castle pits Darryl against the system when his home, and the homes of his neighbours, are "compulsorily acquired" by the government, which is planning on razing them to the ground and expanding upon its airport. Darryl has no intention of going down without a fight.
With an easygoing, Ealing-esque vibe to its storytelling there's never any doubt that the Kerrigans will end up overturning the decision and striking a blow for the little man against the powers that be, but the real pleasure of Rob Sitch's film comes in the details. Before setting its plot in motion, Sitch lets us spend time with the Kerrigan family, with the narration by younger brother Dale (Stephen Curry) introducing each of them and their particular quirks in turn. Older brother Steve (Anthony Simcoe) is the 'ideas man' of the family, with each new invention (such as a hose attached to a broom) amazing his father, while his sister Tracey is the apple of Darryl's eye, having appeared on The Price is Right and been to college. Darryl also dotes on his wife Sal (Anne Tenney), whose prowess in the kitchen continually impresses her family ("Seasoning!" Darryl exclaims in delight, "looks like we've all kicked a goal") and the only dark spot on the family portrait is the incarceration of Wayne, who's serving eight years for armed robbery. Mum and dad know he didn't mean to rob that gas station, though; he just fell in with the wrong crowd.
The Castle walks a fine line with its depiction of the Kerrigans' blissful naïveté. It would be all too easy to take a patronising tone to them, and to mock their unquestioning embrace of the simple things in life, but Sitch and his screenwriters manage to avoid falling into that trap. They do so because we can feel a genuine sense of affection for these characters on the part of the filmmakers; their decency and uncomplicated sense of family unity is celebrated rather than derided. They also succeed because they draw pitch-perfect performances from their cast, with the actors bringing a wonderful sense of guileless enthusiasm to their roles. As well as the actors playing the Kerrigans, there are excellent supporting turns from Tiriel Mora as the family's incompetent lawyer, Eric Bana as Tracey's equally good-natured husband, and Charles Tingwell as the real lawyer who turns up just in time to support the Kerrigans' case.
Above all, The Castle works because it's frequently very funny. The filmmakers mine plenty of humour in the family's idiosyncratic ways, and develop a series of running gags that pay dividends. There's the constant scouring for bargains in the classified section of the newspaper ("He's dreaming" is Darryl's inevitable retort when he hears the asking price), Darryl's store of precious items in his pool room, or lawyer Dennis fighting a losing battle with the printer in his office. The cast's deadpan delivery of Sitch & co's canny dialogue draws consistent laughs, and the film's uplifting but neatly downplayed conclusion feels well earned. No doubt about it, The Castle is one for the pool room.
Sadly no extras were available on the disc sent for review.
The Castle is released on DVD on July 25th
Buy The Castle on DVD here