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An affectionate Irish coming-of-age story

September 17, 2004|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

David Gleeson's "Cowboys & Angels" takes an affectionate view of coming of age. Set in Ireland's picturesque Limerick City, this modest but fresh and appealing film reveals how two roommates, one straight, the other gay, affect each other.

Michael Legge's Shane is a 20-year-old who has a dull civil service job and has decided it's time to stop commuting from the family home out of town and move to Limerick, where he ends up sharing an apartment in a fine old row house with Allen Leech's Vincent, a fashion design student about to graduate.

Shane, who resembles Matthew Broderick, is nice-looking but nerdy, and as the two young men get to know each other, Vincent decides Shane is a straight guy in need of a queer eye. So it's out with his old wardrobe and in with the new, giving Shane a much-needed shot of confidence.

There's more to Vincent than appearances. Shane admires and envies Vincent's self-knowledge, his goals, his dream of pursuing his career in New York and even his gayness, which gives him a sense of identity and community. Shane's dreams of a college education or attending art school have been dashed by a family tragedy. Yet with each passing day in Limerick the feeling grows within him that "something terrible is about to happen" unless he makes some kind of move.

Gleeson gives Shane's quest an unexpected dimension when Shane strikes up an acquaintance with Keith (David Murray), a cool and stylish drug dealer who lives downstairs and opens up fresh possibilities, not to mention dangers and temptations, for a young man with a craving "to do something." A further potential complication for Shane is that, while he is attracted to Vincent's lovely friend Gemma (Amy Shiels), she has a crush on Vincent.

The ways in which Shane and Vincent work out their respective destinies is fraught with an inescapable mix of pain, laughter and mishap.

But for all its moments of pathos, "Cowboys & Angels" is lighthearted. It is an assured piece of work and wholly engaging.


'Cowboys & Angels'

MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements and a scene of violence

Times guidelines: Mature themes and situations

Michael Legge...Shane

Allen Leech...Vincent

Amy Shiels...Gemma

David Murray...Keith

Frank Kelly...Jerry

A TLA Releasing release of a Wide Eye Films Ltd. presentation. Writer-director David Gleeson. Producer Nathalie Lichtenthaeler. Executive producers James Flynn, Brendan McCarthy. Cinematographer Volker Tittel. Editor Andrew Bird. Music Stephen McKeon. Costumes Grainne Preston. Production designer Jim Furlong. Art director David Doran. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Exclusively at the Fairfax Cinemas, Beverly Blvd. at Fairfax Ave., (323) 655-4010; One Colorado, 42 Miller Alley, Pasadena, (626) 744-1224; and the University 6, Campus Drive at Stanford opposite UCI, (800) FANDANGO, Ext. 143#.

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