By Michael-David McKernan | Drama
A lonely taxi driver takes drastic action to protect a customer from heartbreak.

Dara is a taxi driver taking a couple home for the night, observing them as they canoodle and flirt in the backseat. He’s lonely and disconnected, working long nights at his job, watching people’s lives happen as he spends his shifts alone.

Then he picks up a kind, attractive passenger, Sarah. She intends on surprising her boyfriend for the night, who thinks Sarah is away traveling. But then he realizes she’s heading into an emotionally sticky situation, one that will result in certain heartbreak for her — something he tries desperately to protect her from.

Written and directed by Michael-David McKernan — who also plays Dara — this short drama captures the languid, contemplative rhythms of the end of a night when people are heading home for the evening. It also captures a liminal space between roles, places and emotions, when lives both fall apart and come together in unexpected ways.

Shot in one continuous take on location in Dublin, the camera remains in the car with Dara for the entire film. It pans slowly between the driver and his backseat passengers, occasionally framing both within the same composition. Complemented by murky, almost noirish night cinematography, the visual approach stretches out time, emphasizing its heaviness and emptiness, especially as it would be experienced by Dara. It’s fascinating in how it puts viewers in the headspace of someone who exists in the margins of other people’s lives as they experience love, lust and anger — but Dara remains distant from these emotions, and perhaps much of life, himself.

Many one-take films often capture bravura action sequences or very dialogue-heavy emotional situations, but what’s unique about this narrative is how relatively minimalist it is, especially in its dialogue. Actors Michael-David McKernan and Toni O’Rourke both have a flicker of sympathy and connection between them, expressed in the attentive and more-than-cursory glances between them. They also capture the unique dynamic of distance and intimacy between a driver conveying passengers between some of the most important moments and destinations of their lives.

As their lives converge, the film becomes a fascinating, contemplative snapshot of two lives shifting. The tone and gaze are at first coolly removed and almost voyeuristic, but then shifts to something more fragile and tender, especially as Dara finds himself invested in Sarah’s situation, which he knows will be a harsh realization for her. Set at the intersection of heartbreak, infidelity and perhaps even fate, “Halo” unfurls those moments in life when crisis, opportunity and transformation intersect in fascinating, poetic ways, and the seemingly ordinary rhythms of life reveal a newer, richer melody.

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