At a time when it’s necessary to go hunting around for decent feature films, it’s always reassuring to discover that there are still some low budget treasures to be found hidden deep in the archives of Netflix. Originally released in 2017, Michael Inside is one such treasure, a searing study that all too vividly depicts the ways in which a young man’s life can go seriously off the rails.
Dafhyd Flynn plays the titular Michael, a troubled teenager who, after his drug-addicted mother kills herself and his father winds up in prison, is trying to make the best of a bad hand of cards by living with his grandfather, Francis (Lalor Roddy) on an Irish council estate. But drugs are endemic here and, when a friend asks Michael to ‘look after’ a stash of cocaine for a while, he doesn’t feel able to say no. Before you can say ‘poor decision,’ the police are knocking on his door and he’s looking at a short, sharp shock in the local nick.
And shocking it most certainly is. His first day inside is particularly unnerving as he’s immediately bullied by an older inmate. Help seems to appear in the shape of the ever-smiling David Furlong (Moe Dunford). He encourages Michael to stand up for himself but, as the boy soon discovers, everybody here has his own agenda and nobody does anything without an ulterior motive. Soon, Michael is being forced to do terrible things simply to survive his sentence.
Writer/director Frank Berry has crafted a bleak and powerful drama that has all the austere command of Ken Loach at his most harrowing and Dafhyd Flynn offers an impressive performance in the central role, saying little but somehow speaking volumes. And, as Michael’s luckless grandfather is pulled deeper into the relentless orbit of the estate’s powerful drug dealers, it becomes apparent that for Michael, serving his relatively short term in prison is only the beginning.
Once out, there are new terrors to be confronted.
Michael Inside is frankly nobody’s idea of a feelgood movie, but there’s no denying its power and its brutal assertion that drugs can have a catastrophic impact… and not just on the people who use them.