Director Frank Berry challenges the concept of prison reform in his new drama Michael Inside, the winner of the Best Film of 2018 at the Irish Film and Television Academy Awards.
Dafhyd Flynn plays Michael McCrea, a teenager whose story we join with him keeping drugs for a friend.
Michael soon finds this one act marks the beginning of his descent into a violent life in prison that is forced on him.
Michael’s life outside prison seems to lead him inexorably to his fate.
His chaotic family life offers little support and his surroundings give a feeling of claustrophobia. Crammed neighbourhoods, gritty alleyways and pubs form the backdrop to the earlier part of the film.
On entering prison, Michael is treated as just another body to fill a cell.
This film is the result of Berry’s work with a prisoners’ outreach programme.
Berry conducted acting workshops for prisoners as part of the process. It’s out of this that the script for the film was created. The prisoners Berry worked with are also used in the film as extras.
Berry has used their experiences to create an honest account of life in prison, and the conflict and struggle that goes along with it.
The use of violence is at the heart of the film. Michael is torn between standing up to bullies and keeping his head down and doing his time. We can see him almost physically harden.
Michael Inside does well in vividly portraying Michael’s isolation and alienation—both inside and outside of prison, before and after his sentence.