The Shadow of Violence

Movie review by
Stefan Pape, Common Sense Media
The Shadow of Violence Movie Poster Image
Gritty Irish drama doesn't shy away from violence; drug use.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 101 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

For the most part, the movie presents a dark, underground world where nobody seems to come out unscathed. Even characters who strive to do good are dragged into a world of crime and violence.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ursula raises her autistic 5-year-old child alone, working hard to raise enough money to start a new life elsewhere. But she's a solitary beacon of hope in an otherwise bleak landscape.


Violent revenge is a leading theme. Brutal scenes include a character being beaten close to death and innocent bystanders as victims of unprovoked physical abuse. A dog is shot, which we hear but do not see. A naked corpse is seen hanging from the roof of a barn. A hammer attack results in a bloody wound. Murder is carried out and discussed frequently, but not seen. The sexual abuse of an underage character is revealed.


Alluded to, but not seen.


There are several uses of the words "f--k," "s--t," and "c--t." There is much swearing in front of a young child. A character is bullied for their lack of intellect and called a "half-wit."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking and drinking is frequent. Characters smoke pot and one character is forced to take cocaine against their will. A young child plays with drug paraphernalia without knowing what it is.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Shadow of Violence (also known as Calm with Horses) is a brutal and gritty drama that shines a light on a violent, rural society and is explicit in its portrayal of this world. The movie contains drinking, smoking, and drug use -- including cocaine being snorted -- while violent revenge is the leading theme. There is one disturbing scene that builds up towards a middle-aged man creeping into the bedroom of an underage girl -- it's discovered later through conversation that he sexually abused her. A man is attacked to within an inch of his life and another is attacked with a hammer. A dog is heard being shot and a naked corpse is seen hanging from a barn roof. The movie does not glorify such actions, it merely presents them, and it never feels gratuitous. The lead character Arm (Cosmo Jarvis) is desperate to be a good father to his five-year-old autistic son, but he is exploited. Generally the violence within the movie remains within a society of those heavily involved in wrong-doing, even if the innocent are intimidated throughout. There is strong language including uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "c--t."

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What's the story?

THE SHADOW OF VIOLENCE (also released under the title Calm with Horses) delves into the dark underbelly of rural Ireland, where ex-boxer Arm (Cosmo Jarvis) has become an enforcer for the Devers family. Pledging his allegiance to the drug-dealers, he is exploited for his strength. But he's more interested in reconnecting with his ex-partner Ursula (Niamh Algar) and their autistic son. Cosmo's loyalty and humanity are put to the test when he is instructed to kill somebody.

Is it any good?

The Shadow of Violence marks a striking and unforgettable debut for Nick Rowland. It's an atmospheric drama that places the viewer in the heart of this murky, barren town in rural Ireland. Visually striking, the movie is stylistic and brutal. Similarly to the character of Lenny in Of Mice and Men, Arm (Jarvis) -- a physically intimidating, yet conflicted man -- is exploited for his stature and his lack of intellect. This results in sad tale of someone desperate to wave good-bye to a world he's somehow indebted to.

The movie's real spark is Jarvis, and while Dunkirk's Barry Keoghan continues to mark his rise as Dympna, it's the former who truly shines. It's a subtle and internalized display, and while this may be a violent, unforgiving drama, at its core it works as a stirring character study of an incredibly complex man. Thanks to Jarvis' central performance the movie takes the viewer on a compelling and emotional journey.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Shadow of Violence. How did it make you feel? What does the movie have to say about violence? Does it glorify it?

  • How are drinking, smoking, and drug use depicted? Are they glamorized? Are there realistic consequences? Why is that important?

  • How is revenge explored in the movie? How else can we come to terms and move on from hardship without resorting to taking revenge?

  • The movie is about making the right choices. Arm is presented with two paths -- discuss the value in taking the correct one, and what character strengths are needed to avoid peer pressure.

  • Talk to your children about autism. What do they know about it? Do they wish to learn more and help understand the condition?

Movie details

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