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Review: The Visit

Updated: Apr 2


IRA man Tommy McDaid is pulled back to Manchester 25 years after he helped plant a huge bomb that devastated the City Centre and changed the course of his life forever.


The 1996 bombing of Manchester city centre by the IRA remains one of the major touchpoints of The Troubles. As the largest bombing on mainland Britain since World War Two, the incident is emblematic of a campaign of violence that defined a generation. Despite the devastating carnage that occurred that day, miraculously no one was killed, although more than 200 were injured. Ironically, far from being a violent blow that would help to push the UK out of the island of Ireland, it became the catalyst of one of England’s biggest regeneration programmes, resulting in the powerhouse metropolis that Manchester is today.

This regeneration, while being the flashpoint of one of the UKs biggest campaigns of sustained economic growth, also laid the groundwork for the alienation of an old guard who understood what the character of Manchester was, an understanding they shared with the very people who sought to destroy it on 15th June 1996. Thus, we find ourselves at the start of the titular visit as former (and fictional) IRA combatant Tommy McDaid (Cal MacAnanich) returns to Manchester for the first time since carrying out the infamous attack. Writer and producer Paul Ludden crafts a nuanced and deeply insightful script, which uses the Manchester attack to frame a story about an aging man returning to the site of his greatest ‘accomplishment’ and processing the realisation that time has moved on, with Manchester burying the mark he left on it under its own progress and expansion, until there is barely any indication that the mark he left was ever there.

Ludden’s introspective journey is given greater complexity with the introduction of Bernard, a taxi driver and former British soldier, deployed to Belfast during The Troubles (played by real life former British squaddie Trevor Dwyer-Lynch). As Bernard drives Tommy into the centre of town, they are both taken aback by the rapid change of pace, lamenting a world that seems to have all but left them behind. Director Jake Murray does fine work, guiding these two characters to the screen, emphasising their shared camaraderie, borne of being on opposite sides of a conflict that claimed an untold number of lives, including people close to them both. Murray’s stewardship of MacAnanich and Dwyer-Lynch’s performance delivers a fascinating exchange as these former combatants silently become aware of who the other is. Within a single scene, we experience a palpable tension contextualised by the kind of understanding that, ironically, can only be shared by enemies.

Manchester itself is captured magnificently by Director of Photography Jenni Suitiala, displaying the metropolis in its magnificence and its indifference. The relentless pace of Britain’s third largest city and even the buildings themselves overwhelm the ailing man who once held so much power over them. As Tommy reckons with his sins, his initially stoic and impenetrable character are reduced to a shell of the mysterious and ominous man we are introduced to at the top of the film. This is expertly delivered by the triumvirate of MacAnanich’s performance, Suitiala’s cinematography and editing by Andrew McKee, brilliantly utilising the real-life footage captured on the day. McKee creates a frenetic visual pace as Tommy is yanked from the overwhelming present to the chaos of his past actions. Suitiala lenses both the vastness of Manchester’s sprawling skyline and the tumult of Tommy’s growing unrest as the weight of his sins becomes too much to carry. There are plot twists that augment this very internal struggle and director Jake Murray expertly guides us through this complex and visceral assessment of a life spent in violence.

This is the kind of short film that is able to distil huge events and a broad historical canvas into an intimate and multi-faceted character examination. It does so without losing the intrigue of a slow-reveal plot that continues to reframe the characters as we get deeper into the story. Paul Ludden’s script and Jake Murray’s direction reflect their love of Manchester as much as their deep consideration for the viewpoints, experiences and tragedies of The Troubles. Together, they lead an exceptional team to create a considered and powerful experience that peers into the very soul of Britain itself.

Listen to our interview with writer/producer Paul Luden and director Jake Murray on our podcast below.


Studio: MancMade Productions | Year: 2023 | Genre: Period Drama/Thriller | Duration: 20 Mins | Suitability: Mature



Director: Jake Murray | Producer: Paul Ludden | Writer: Paul Ludden

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