Damian Lewis in Keane

The American Buffalo programme booklet has a nice section in which Damian Lewis answers questions asked by fans.


Mr. Carlos Hill asks: “Which piece of work are you most proud of?”

Damian Lewis answers: “I’m proud of all my work. I always turn up and try my hardest to do the best job I can, but I was proud of my Hamlet, playing Soames Forsyte in The Forsyte Saga, and I’m also very proud of a small film called Keane, which not many people saw.”

Well, we talked about Damian’s Hamlet earlier here — both the one with Damian being in the lead role at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park and the one with Damian playing Laertes opposite Ralph Fiennes’ Hamlet on Broadway. We also talked about Damian’s Soames Forsyte in much detail. We only talked about Keane though in the context that how it gave us Nicholas Brody. And, now that Damian puts Keane in the top three jobs that he’s most proud of, it’s time we talk about Keane.

As Damian suggests, Keane is a small, independent film which not many people saw; however, it is a very serious film selected to be screened at both Cannes Film Festival and New York Film Festival in 2005 and LOVED by the critics, too. It is a movie that makes you think, and think hard. Questions pop up in your head as you watch the movie, and you have more questions than answers when you finish… Keane is a puzzle that you cannot solve, but that you cannot forget, either. It just stays with you.

The film, in a nutshell, is the story of a mentally disturbed guy, William Keane, who bonds with a little girl and her financially troubled mom while he is desperately searching for his own missing daughter.

Shot with a handheld camera, the movie is full of very close shots on Lewis that adds a certain level of claustrophobia to an already psychologically intense movie.

source: magpictures.com
source: magpictures.com

We see Keane talking to himself, crying, singing, eating at a rundown diner, cleaning himself in a public bathroom, using coke and having sex with a hooker in a nightclub bathroom. ALL IN EXTREMELY CLOSE SHOTS. Keane is almost breathing into you. You are trapped in his world that it’s deeply, deeply unsettling.

In Damian Lewis’ own words to the Guardian: “It’s a knockout role for an actor in terms of achieving a credibility in a character who spends 90 minutes in an extreme emotional state… It’s a huge responsibility. It’s not something you can dare to get wrong.”

AND, HE DOES EVERYTHING JUST RIGHT. No wonder Homeland producers gave Lewis the part for Brody after seeing this movie — and without an audition, too. What they wanted from him in Homeland was already in Keane: A broken individual dealing with mental problems and struggling to put his life back together at the same time.

Here is the movie trailer:

Spoiler Warning: If you have not seen the movie yet, and do mind spoilers, you may want to stop here. If you have seen the movie or you don’t mind spoilers, then please join me in my movie review — thanks!

source: magpictures.com
source: magpictures.com

We first meet William Keane — a divorced guy in his mid 30s, living on disability checks, partly staying at a seedy motel and otherwise homeless — at the NYC Port Authority Bus Terminal where he inquires about a little girl at the ticket office with an old news clip in hand. He says it’s her daughter and she was abducted right there last September. She was 6. She had a purple jacket with a hood…

But then we see him buying clothes for his daughter and even buying clothes for himself and talking to himself “You have to be presentable for her. You are her father. You have to set a good example.” Does he move back and forth between his past and the reality? What is happening?


He goes to a bar. He plays “Can’t Help Myself” on the Juke Box and sings along loudly. He wants to hear the music even louder: “Turn up the Music, turn up the music, turn up the music!” It is extremely hard to watch this devastating scene.Damian Lewis is simply mind-blowing as this guy who lives in HELL. He tries it all to escape his demons — loud music, coke, sex in a nightclub bathroom —it just doesn’t work. There is no HOPE for Keane out there.

Then we get to meet Lynn Bedik (a brilliant Amy Ryan) and her daughter Kira (an even more brilliant Abigail Breslin). She is broke and cannot pay for the motel. Keane offers her money, she doesn’t want to accept, but he comes across very tender and sweet: “It’s not what you think it is, I know you don’t know me. But I’ve been in your position before; please, please take it.”

Lynn accepts. She later invites him to a take-out dinner in their hotel room. You feel the awkwardness all along. Lynn asks Keane personal questions. Job? He paints houses, also works in construction. No, he does not have a job right now, but he has some leads  — it is really sad how he is trying to make a good impression on this young woman. Ever married? Yes. Once. Did not work out.  BUT he does not mention her daughter. He does not mention Sophie. He does not, because he believes Lynn would think of him as a problem guy? Or… He just asks: “Do you wanna dance?”

source: screenshot from movie
source: screenshot from movie – low quality pic, but could not find an image from this scene anywhere 🙁

You may find the dance scene sad. It is SAD. It is clear that it has been quite a long time since this man had some real intimacy with a woman. He is awkward, he does not know where to put his hands; it seems he wants to touch her, but does not want to make her feel uncomfortable, either; but he also has some comfort as they dance, and you can see ALL THIS AND MORE in Damian Lewis’ eyes. The guy does not need to say anything. He tells you all with his eyes. Yes, the scene is sad but I think there is also a glimpse of HOPE there. It has a “maybe, just maybe, I can put back my life together” kind of feel to it. You root for Keane. Here, I respectfully disagree with Village Voice critic Atkinson who argues that the movie’s achievement is that “its raw hopelessness is its universality.” Nope. I think there is HOPE in those eyes, at least, at that very moment.

Meeting Lynn and Kira pumps some new energy into Keane. He starts looking for a job… More importantly, he does not go to the bus terminal to look for her daughter… Instead he makes his way into Lynn and Kira’s room with the help of a screwdriver. You may think it’s CREEPY. It is. I would not want anyone to get into my room without me knowing and touch my things, smell my sweater or lie in my bed. And, I can see that everyone may interpret the scene in a different way and question Keane’s intentions. In my humble opinion though THIS IS ALL ABOUT HOPE. A “maybe this woman and this child will help me get through, maybe everything will be alright” kind of hope… Keane is hopeful now, he goes back to his room, and looks at a news clip about a missing NJ girl reunited with her family. “They got their girl back.” Maybe, everything will really be OK in the end.

Keane spends more time with Lynn and Kira. Lynn even leaves her daughter with him when she goes to Albany to “fix things” but then comes back with bad news for Keane. Her boyfriend has found a place to stay for them, and they are moving to Albany. “So, that’s it?” he asks. “Yeah” she answers.

source: cineplex.com
source: cineplex.com

The “raw hopelessness” that Atkinson talks about in his review kicks in now. Keane is back to where he started: The Port Authority Bus Terminal, and this time with Kira. He tells her they will go to Albany. But he buys one-way tickets to Clifton, New Jersey. And we all question his motives… so much so that it is pretty disturbing to watch. Does he think Lynn is not a responsible mother and does not deserve her daughter so he can just have and raise Kira as his own daughter? Does he plot that if he takes this little girl to that candy store where his daughter was abducted, the man that kidnapped his daughter would come for Kira so Keane could catch him?

Honestly, we do not even know if there was ever a daughter. We do not know if a real bad tragedy like the abduction of his child brought him to the edge, or did the mental problems bring him the delusion of an abducted daughter?

We just don’t know.

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

8 thoughts on “Damian Lewis in Keane”

  1. I love all the films of Damian, because, even if some films are not very good, Damian, is always great!
    But Keane, he is more than good, he’s amazing, I watched this movie more than 4 times, and I know that I would look again!
    I understand very well that the producers of Homeland, were subdued, and they did not need to audition Damian, they had found their man, they find Brody!
    And what a beautiful result !!

    1. I am completely with you, Monique — there could not have been a more BEAUTIFUL result! Damian’s Keane gave us Brody in Homeland (a character that is too hard to say good-bye!) and his Brody is now giving us Bobby in Billions with whom I am sure we will all fall in love once again! You are so right that even in the weaker films that he made, he makes a BIG difference. I remember the NY Times review about Romeo and Juliette saying the only good thing about the movie being Damian Lewis 🙂 He shines as Lord Capulet, too!

  2. I did not know this article on Romeo and Juliet, but that does not surprise me!
    Without bias, with any actor, Damian is still the best!
    It’s hard for me to speak in English, but Damian, get something I have never seen with other actor!
    In his eyes, the expression on his face, his body, the way he moves, everything is wonderful!
    I was a fan of some actors, but NEVER, have I known such a actor!
    I’m definitely his fan

    1. I know I am biased 🙂 But my husband isn’t… and he says Damian is the BEST, too 😀 So, as you say without bias, Damian’s STILL the best!!! Monique, you speak perfect English, and besides we speak the same language, language of DL — so we all understand each other perfectly well, don’t we? I agree with you on all fronts — the eyes, the facial expressions, the way he uses his body (he is amazing with his body language on stage as well) — haha I had been a Kevin Costner fan for 20 years, Damian just came along and turned my world upside down 🙂 Much Love.

      1. I was a fan of Joe Lando, Sully, in Doctor Quinn medecin woman, a series that passionate me, Joe Lando is beautiful, I went to LA for 10 years DQ, I ate with him, but when I saw Life, my heart leapt, and I saw what is,a talented actor, Lando is beautiful but little talent, besides he has not done anything good since!
        No other actor in the world replace Damian in my heart is for life !!!

        1. So, Monique, it was Life that you saw Damian in first? I did not have an idea about Damian until Homeland. It was the Emmys in 2012 that I found out about him when he got the award for playing Brody — and the rest is history! The man made me a fan for life, and a blogger, too 🙂 I had written about how I became his fan on the first ever blog I did, you may like it: https://www.fanfunwithdamianlewis.com/?p=64
          You are RIGHT, no other actor can replace Damian in our hearts and we will keep following his brilliant career altogether!

  3. Nice post, well written, thanks Damianista. Keane has been the film that has made me fall in love with Damian Lewis. The

    art, in all its expressions, for me, has a twofold function: it dazzles you, it elevates you with its beauty but it can

    also be the opposite one; sometimes the art is shocking, it strikes you strong, it helps you to think and to reflect.

    This is the case of Keane. How much is unpleasant, for example, the scene bar ? I have felt deeply to uneasiness looking

    at it, I wanted to look away, to close my eyes but I also felt that I had to look, I had to understand. Keane is not an

    easy film to watch, it’s heartbreaking but it leaves so much yourself inside and this is what art should do, for me.

    Damian’s performance is superb, stunning, I don’t remember another actor who has given me so many emotions with his

    acting. I am sorry for my English; it’s not easy to describe feelings in another language. I thank you for your wonderful


    1. Thank you! And thank you for sending us your story about how you became a Damian Lewis fan. Keane is an extraordinary film and no wonder it is the one Damian is most proud of having made. And, moreover, it gave us Brody! 🙂 The bar scene was very disturbing, it felt very real; you are absolutely right Keane is not an easy watch. And yeah this is how art should be made. I cannot agree more with you. I hope Damian keeps making films like Keane — I am so selfish that I don’t even want him to be 007 but make small budget independent movies where you make art! And, last but not the least, your English is perfect! Thank you for reading us — our readers like yourself make us keep going and going <3 Keep your feedback coming!

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