Fan Fun Movie of the Month: Keane

“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.” – Damian Lewis

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.

And now that Keane has received a 4K restoration and is opening today at Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, we cannot name any other movie than Keane the Fan Fun Movie of the Month. See it on big screen if you can!

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.


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 him to deliver 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!

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.


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 has ever been 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 “Fan Fun Movie of the Month: Keane”

  1. I remember how eager I was to see this film, but when it came out, it was not available in any theater near me. So, I waited for it to be released on DVD and bought two copies in case something happened to one . There was no way to know if it would be available much later. Of all Damian’s work, I have watched BoB uncountable number of times. Coming in second was Life. Forsyte Saga and Dreamcatcher were tied at third and Keane at fourth. Actually Keane is in a class by itself. While I’m thinking of it, has anyone seen Chromophobia? It isn’t mentioned on here much, or maybe not at all, that I can recall.

    1. Keane is such an underrated movie. I think it had buzz at film festivals, as it should have, but had difficulty reaching out to masses. It’s not the kind of movie most people watch. But it’s so my kind of movie. Very hard watch – but it’s very real. Damian does a phenomenal job and no wonder he’s proud of the movie.

      Chromophobia – another festival circuit movie. You’re right, Connie, I’ve never written about Chromophobia. I should. I actually want to write about every piece of work Damian has done at some point. Chromophobia may be next. I actually watched it a few times. But I need to watch it again before writing a piece about it.

  2. While I’m thinking of some of his lesser known pieces, Colditz comes to mind; a good example of his ability to take a good guy turned bad and be convincing with both sides of the character. Then there is the Escapist which I did not care for because I strongly dislike the genre. Also The Situation which I thought would get more attention because it so mirrored the events of the world at that time. Like Will and Our Kind of Traitor, The Situation didn’t provide opportunity for Damian to use his remarkable range of ability, but it was an interesting piece. (When mention is made of his roles as an American, that one is usually forgotten.) More recently, Dream Horse is in the group that doesn’t allow for a demonstration of what he can do, but it is such a feel good movie that I love it!

    1. I LOVE COLDITZ! It’s not exactly a movie, but a very short limited series so I think I have to make it part of this fan Fun Movie of the Month series. I also like The Situation – it may be one of the first movies about the war in Iraq. I agree about Will and OKOT but The Escapist gives Damian a chance to shine as Rizza. You know that he wore a women’s thong to find Rizza’s walk, don’t you? 🙂

      Dream Horse is a story that everyone needed this summer to welcome the normal-iish life again! I love Damian when he plays the average Joe, and the story is lovely. Perfect family movie!

  3. I recently saw Keane, I’m not sure how it slipped under the radar, but it happens.
    The Shawshank Redemption suffered a similar fate! Makes you wonder how many other well made films are just overlooked; which is a bit frustrating for everybody involved in the making of what they thought was a job well done.
    Hopefully that doesn’t mean they look at it differently, particularly in the case of Keane.In my experience people want to distance themselves from mental illness,I really don’t get it!

    1. Thanks for reading. Keane is a brilliant film. But it is easy for such films to go under the radar since they are small budget, independent movies. But of course if you follow independent/foreign cinema (that’s the kind of cinema I enjoy) then it is another story. I think Keane has made buzz in festival circuits when it was screened back in 2005 but it didn’t arrive to the typical multiplex cinema – small budget movie, and as you rightly observe, it’s about mental health, a topic many people avoid from talking about. Damian always says he is proud of having made Keane. But then he adds probably five people watched it in addition to his family 🙂 He’s of course joking but Keane is an under-appreciated movie for sure.

      1. I’ve just seen Keane again and I have to say the portrayal of a person with Mental health problems isn’t easy to get right but I have to say the character’s were so well cast.
        The expressions and mannerisms that Damian can achieve make the film very believable.
        The actresses were also so convincing.

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