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Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner! Written and directed by Ciaran Foy, Citadel is a Scottish/Irish coproduction filmed on location in some of the most unbelievably desolate and blighted locales of Glasgow and Dublin that I’ve ever seen on film. The decaying housing projects and ruined grey landscapes make an ideal setting for a particularly harrowing urban fairy tale about an anxiety ridden single father who must protect his infant daughter from a marauding band of feral children.

After seeing his wife attacked by a trio of menacing urchins—and being powerless to help—Tommy Cowley (Aneurin Barnard) has developed a rather whopping case of agoraphobia, one that requires him to treat the affliction with counseling sessions and trust exercises. In this case, Tommy’s phobia is perfectly justified, as he lives in a dismal housing development with his yowling daughter Elsa, born despite a comatose mother who never recovered from her vicious assault.

To make matters considerably worse, it appears that the same pack of nasty kids is on his trail once again. Even while he gets advice and comfort from a sympathetic nurse (Wunmi Mosaku), Tommy comes to realize that these murderous moppets can smell and trace his fear—and as an agoraphobe, he lights up the night like a shining beacon. Driven to desperate lengths, Tommy teams up with a deranged priest (James Cosmo) to battle the little blighters.

Foy’s deft blending of grim, dystopic reality and dark mythic quest is extraordinary. Barnard is a revelation as Tommy, a young man who has no choice but to get his shit together and take arms against a hideously relentless foe. The term “reluctant hero” was tailor-made for this crazy kid. We can’t help but root for him and hope that he can somehow overcome his crippling fear and fulfill his quest.

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