Back to IndieWire


As is often the case with 26-year-old man-boys, Donal Durkan (Domhnall Gleeson) is sexually unfulfilled. Living on a desolate farm in Tipperary, Ireland with his invalid father, he’s had little-to-no contact with the outside world, let alone the opposite sex. Donal’s mother passed away when he was only a toddler, and other than his dad he has one friend, Karl (Patrick Ryan), who lives on the farm, sponging off of Donal.

Boiling with lust, Donal’s mind is completely preoccupied with images of the nude women featured in the pornographic magazines he keeps buried in a field next to a herd of sheep. His life is pretty uneventful, leading to his overall disenchantment and indifference towards everything around him. Serial masturbation seems to be his one and only pleasure.

Upon returning from a mid-day jaunt to enjoy his stash, Donal discovers that his father has suddenly passed away. Now on his own, Donal attempts to lose his virginity by hiring a prostitute to help him get out of his rut. And so he meets Kim, an aging Kiwi escort. After engaging in a strictly sexual encounter, their relationship soon progresses into a lusty romance, then to a business enterprise between two partners. Through these exploits, Donal and Kim provide each other with a sense of love and belonging that neither experienced beforehand.

Take a dash of Hal Ashby’s “Being There” and “Harold and Maude”, combined with the bleaker sensibility of Todd Solondz’s “Happiness” and you get the darkly comedic tone of Tom Hall’s “Sensation.” In a country where sexual material was often repressed (a large number of nudie magazines, including Playboy, were banned in Ireland until the late eighties), Hall uses today’s internet era to make provocative statements about Ireland’s modern-day sex trade industry and, by extension, the shifting balance of power between men and women. [Synopsis courtesy of Michèle Maheux/Toronto International Film Festival]