Fantastic Fest: Charming bromance elevates “The Young Offenders”

Charles Liu

A bale of cocaine worth 7 million euros has been lost by the police on the Irish coast. Two boys decide the only logical plan of action is to seize it for themselves.

The boys are Conor MacSweeney (Alex Murphy) and Jock Murphy (Chris Walley), and nothing can top their bromance. They are two teenagers who roam about their small town on the daily, generally being unproductive little wankers. 

So begins the crass, witty and unmistakably Irish “The Young Offenders,” a funny bromantic romp that gleefully sends its characters into wacky and outlandish situations.

Conor and Jock ride stolen bikes in pursuit of the cocaine, which puts the determined Sergeant Healy (Dominic MacHale) on their tail. They stumble across a lonely old man who makes them kill a chicken for dinner, then later steal the cocaine from a drug dealer (P.J. Gallagher) with cerebral palsy. 

Murphy and Walley are energetic and bright young leads that bring warmth to their funny but downtrodden characters. As the sergeant, MacHale is a brooding antagonist whose seriousness highlights the general absurdity of the events around him. Another standout is Hilary Rose as Conor’s overworked and short-tempered mother, who constantly expresses disappointment in Conor’s failings and rage at Jock’s lax demeanor.

“The Young Offenders” is filled with abrupt tonal shifts and rarely stops moving. The film’s lightheartedness calls to mind movies such as “Pineapple Express” and “Superbad” — though it is altogether strange, it has emotional grounding.

The movie’s slow moments arrive near its end, when Conor and Jock must look inward and reflect on their flaws. Conor and Jock only act out due to their unsatisfying home lives. They both come from single-parent households — Conor chafes under his mom, and Jock endures abuse from his father. Their journey to find the cocaine is a coming-of-age story in which both realize they cannot escape the way things are; they must instead work to improve their situations.

Sweet and hilarious, “The Young Offenders” is a delightful comedy that deserves just as much attention as bigger pictures of its kind. While it doesn’t have a lot going for it in terms of star power, the film comes across as genuine thanks to its more serious look at broken homes and lesser-known actors. The two young offenders in question may have a way of mucking things up, but their splash on the big screen is a surefire success.

“The Young Offenders”

Running Time: 85 minutes

Rating: NR

Score: 4.5/5 stars