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I Am Patrick: Netflix's dreary docudrama about St Patrick could do with a few snakes


I Am Patrick (Netflix)

I Am Patrick (Netflix)

I Am Patrick (Netflix)

It’s going to be a low-key St Patrick’s Day tomorrow, so what’s the plan? A quiet day in front of the telly or a quiet day in front of the telly? Good luck with that.

St Patrick’s Day hasn’t been much of a day for television for a long, long time. Irish broadcasters don’t seem to be bothered any more about marking the national holiday to any noticeable degree. Those old standbys The Quiet Man and Darby O’Gill and the Little People are nowhere to be seen this year. Maybe they’re off the booze for Lent.

There’s an Irish film on RTE1, the Roddy Doyle-scripted Rosie, which is about homelessness. Topical, certainly, and more reflective of the real Ireland than the shillelagh and shamrock twaddle we sell to elderly American tourists wearing green polyester slacks with elasticated waistbands. It’s not what you’d call light bank holiday relief, though.

Enter Netflix, which has an algorithm to plug every gap, including the hitherto undetected one for TV films about our patron saint.

Actually, describing I Am Patrick (which could be the title of a Ken Loach offering about a recovering alcoholic) as a film is stretching it. It’s billed by the makers as a “docu-drama”, which means it’s half of one thing and half another, and not particularly good at being either.

Let me revise that: I Am Patrick, shot at picturesque spots in Galway, Clare and Mayo and featuring a bunch of familiar Irish actors and a predominantly Irish crew, is not just not very good, it’s downright awful. The trouble is, it’s awful in all the wrong ways.

Picture this: a retelling of the life of Patrick, made by America’s conservative evangelical Christian Broadcasting Network, founded by rich televangelist and former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson.

It should be a cheesy, melodramatic hoot, full of unintentional laughs, like the wretched Roma Downey-produced mini-series The Bible, which notoriously featured a Satan who looked a lot like Barack Obama.

Instead, I Am Patrick, written and directed by Jarrod Anderson, is just crushingly dull and lifeless. The aerial drone shots of the Irish landscape look great, but aerial drone shots of anywhere look great.

Peppered with contributions from various academic and clerical talking heads, it’s a pedestrian account of how Patrick, played by three different actors at various ages, was kidnapped from his noble British family by a gang of Irish pirates (actually, about three of them, large-scale set pieces not being I Am Patrick’s strong point) and spent six years as a slave before being called by God and eventually becoming a bishop and missionary in pagan Ireland.

The young Patrick is Robert McCormack, who’s supposed to be half-starved yet looks remarkably healthy and fresh-faced.

Slavery looks a doddle – lots of hanging around on hillsides with sheep, praying, smiling beatifically, praying some more, smiling some more and so on – until Patrick finally hitches a boat ride back to Britain with a gang (well, three) of hard-looking dudes, one of whom sounds like he comes from north Dublin.

The Patrick who returns to Ireland after various dreary setbacks is now played by Sean T O Meallaigh, who’s not required to do much more than look pious and quite possibly constipated. It’s not his fault. The script is flat, the sense of drama non-existent.

Patrick in old age is played by John Rhys-Davies (Gimli the dwarf in The Lord of the Rings), who wears the expression of a man who still hasn’t managed, decades later, to get his hands on some laxatives.

Moe Dunford gets the best deal of all. He’s the narrator, which means he doesn’t appear on screen, which also means few people might remember he was ever involved in this.

What I Am Patrick really needs is a few snakes to add a little bite. It has its uses, mind. If you fancy spending 70 minutes catching up on your reading, or even your sleep, this is just the ticket.

I Am Patrick (Netflix, streaming now) - 1 star