Keane: Lodge Kerrigan’s Personal, Terrific, and Terrifying Urban Drama–Making of, Critical Status

Keane is a personal film about child abduction, prompted by director Lodge Kerrigan’s fear of his own daughter disappearing during a shopping excursion.

Keane movie poster.jpg

“I realized, how in just four minutes, four minutes! your child could be abducted. Your life could be changed forever and there would be no way to recover from it. I knew that kind of visceral feeling would be a good starting point.”

The result was In God’s Hands, produced by Soderbergh and starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard, which centered on the disintegration of a family after a child had been abducted.

The film never was released due to “irreversible negative damage.” With nothing left of his film to salvage, Kerrigan began researching and writing a new project that became Keane.

Kerrigan knew the location of the film would be a key plot element, and he wrote much of the script while walking around New York City, trying to get a feel for the main characters and their surroundings.

“It was exhilarating, working with that kind of energy. I also wrote a lot of the film there as well. I would go and play out a scene and try to act it out… to some degree try to find the emotions, by recreating, beat by beat, his mindset, the abduction of his daughter. It all goes back to location… when you are working in the actual area, you can answer all of the questions that would arise with much more immediacy.”

The film was shot with a handheld camera with single takes lasting up to 4 minutes with no cutaways

Defying conventions, it contains long stretches of time with little or no dialogue, and it has no musical score.

Shooting was completed within 32 days, and several of the Manhattan and North Bergen, New Jersey locations Kerrigan selected were remote, unfamiliar streets. These backdrops helped to emphasize the downward spiral of the central character.

“Poverty is part of it… people who suffer from mental illness are marginalized…and that place, the surrounding area, with all the confusion, the buses and people coming in and out… it is really an appropriate location.”

The casting was ingenious.  Damian Lewis, then unknown actor, inhabits thoroughly the unstable (possibly demented) Keane, finding all kinds of psychological and mental nuances of character, resulting in a scary, even haunting performance that lingers in memory long after the movie is over.

Kerrigane captures the relentlessly drab and impersonal urban landscapes in a way that reinforces the terrible isolation of Keane’s anguished odyssey.

Tuat and suspenseful, if not always compelling and creditable from a psychological standpoint, Keane is nonetheless a bold and unsettling probe of the violence of the mind, without any nod to sentimentality.

Critical Status: Awards

John Foster was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography, but lost to Robert Elswit for Good Night, and Good Luck.

Gotham Award nominations went to Lodge Kerrigan for Best Film, and Damian Lewis for Breakthrough Actor.

The film was released on Region 1 DVD on March 21, 2006, in anamorphic widescreen format with an English audio track and Spanish subtitles.

The DVD includes an alternate version of the film, edited by executive producer Soderbergh, which is 15 minutes shorter than the original.

It is preceded by a note from Soderbergh, who says: “While I was away on location, Lodge sent me a copy of Keane to look at before he locked picture. I loved the film and told him so, but I also sent him this version to look at, in case it jogged anything (it didn’t). In any case, we agreed it was an interesting to us example of how editing affects intent.”


Written, directed by Lodge Kerrigan
Written by Lodge Kerrigan
Produced by Andrew Fierberg
Cinematography John Foster
Edited by Andrew Hafitz
Distributed by Magnolia Pictures

Release dates: Sept 3, 2004 (Telluride Film Festival); Sept 9, 2005 (United States)

Running time: 100 minutes
Budget $850,000
Box office $394,390