The Man Who Was Thursday is a brave choice for a feature film debut. The screenplay is an adaptation from the 1908 novel, the theme could be received as controversial and the plot doesn’t follow the conventional model. With this in mind, ‘Thursday’ could have done either one of two things, succeeded or failed – strangely however, it sits remarkably in the middle.
After some questionable events at his parish, Father Smith is asked to travel to Rome to undergo a ‘spiritual rehabilitation’. However, all is not as it seems when Smith is asked to go undercover and infiltrate an anarchist group acting against the church.
For his debut, Balazs Juszt pushes the boundaries and does manage to tell an interesting story. Even though there are times when the narrative gets a little bogged down, the intriguing finale and moral questions raised do enough to keep you interested. From a direction perspective, ‘Thursday’ is definitely a step in the right direction for the young filmmaker. The tone is dark and gritty, adding to depth of character and his knowledge of the subject matter does come through in every scene. This commitment to the ‘dark side’, particularly in contrast to its religious themes, set the film up nicely for fans of gothic thrillers.
The film is further strengthened by the cast. While relatively unknown, the ensemble seems to work well with one another to deliver a good performance. François Arnaud is decent as the unhinged and slightly broken lead, Father Smith but the real godfather of the production is Jordi Mollà as the suave and complex, Charles.
As ever though, with every debut there come some issues. Inexperience begins to shine when you delve deeper into the structure of the content. With so much to cover, the production does suffer from some pacing issues. The start for instance takes a while to kick in and as such, causes the rest of the film to feel a little rushed. This is further felt with some story discrepancies usually caused by heavy cuts in the editing room. The outcome is then a story that struggles to get across the points that matter and as such, ends up missing the events that could cover up some of the plotholes.
Overall, The Man Who Was Thursday is an interesting watch but definitely suffers from feature inexperience. The story, while intriguing, gets a little bogged down but that’s not to say that you won’t enjoy where the story finishes. When all is taken into consideration, the mind does begin to wonder whether this would have made a better 3 part TV drama rather than its intended feature film debut. 3 out of 5 stars.