“Some of us are what you might call svelte.”
Based on the Patrick McCabe novel, Neil Jordan’s film Breakfast on Pluto is the tale of a young Irish lad who suffers from rejection and adversity but effectively manages to reinvent himself. Set against the troubled and violent times of 1970s Ireland and London, Patrick “Kitten” Braden (Cillian Murphy) is the unwanted product of a housekeeper and an Irish priest, Father Liam (Liam Neeson). Abandoned as a baby by his mother on the priest’s doorstep, Patrick grows up unwanted, unloved and alienated from everyone in his sphere. As Patrick’s life becomes bleaker, he reinvents himself–finding refuge in creative stories about his past.
I knew I was in trouble immediately after the film began. Little animated birds (with subtitled speech) appear in the very first scene, and this gives the film both a fairy tale quality and a faux-Disney approach to Patrick’s life experiences. While this device is just another in a string of devices that Patrick uses to cope with the emotional traumas he faces, somehow, this initial foray into the fantasy version of Patrick’s beginnings just rubbed me the wrong way. As Kitten’s life becomes darker and more depressing, Kitten’s creativity becomes both an affirmation of life and hope and a method of staying reasonably sane. The film becomes much stronger–and much more interesting–after Patrick eventually drifts off to London in search of his mother–the “phantom lady”–and meets a magician (Stephen Rea). Some of the film’s fantasy sequences were brilliant–the disco scenes and Kitten as a perfume killer were priceless.
While the film makes it perfectly clear exactly why Kitten creates elaborate and fanciful stories about his past, the sequences with the birds were silly and overdone, and the first third of the film is weak. Cillian Murphy delivers a wonderful performance, however, as the delightful androgynous transvestite, Kitten–a gentle, sweet, vulnerable creature who harms no one–except himself on his journey of self-discovery.