What startles about "What Richard Did" isn't the tragedy, but the mundanity of what happens. Richard (Jack Reynor) is a handsome young teenager, an alpha male on his rugby team and big brother to the local youth. In their modest Irish neighborhood, Richard carries the social capital not only of being handsome and witty, but also having free reign over his parents' beach house. While mom is hesitant about Richard's drunken misbehavior with his lads, his dad is entirely understanding that a boy needs a little bit of troublemaking in his life.
In some ways, that troublemaking extends to Richard's very-public courtship of Lara (Roisin Murphy), a local high schooler who can't help but make eyes at the confident party-starter even while attached to another boy, lanky introvert Conor (Sam Keeley). With surgical precision, Richard slings some game at her and soon they're having picnics and snuggling. It's impossible to ignore the boy's charm and Reynor's distinct, wholesome handsomeness; surely Michael Bay saw such appeal when he cast Reynor in the upcoming "Transformers" sequel. You could see this guy growing up to romance leading ladies and dodge fireballs while being pinned to girls' locker rooms. Hey, someone check to see if this guy can sing.
Unfortunately, it's never clear that Lara has made a clean break with Conor, and those suspicions come to a head at a tumultuous house party. Seeing what appears to be Conor making a move, a massive drunken fight erupts. Richard, not a brawler by nature, goes chest-to-chest with Conor and the two of them argue until Conor slugs him. A group of kids swarm and begin wrestling each other as Richard attempts to find his bearings, with Conor taking a rogue shot to the face. Anyone who has been in a real fight knows the chaos that fisticuffs bring, and the potential for things to escalate beyond reason: as Conor fumbles in the dark, Richard approaches and delivers a swift, drunken kick to the face. It's the sort of blow that action heroes unrealistically shrug off in every movie you've ever seen. And in this case, it proves fatal.
As the news reports discuss an 18-year-old boy found dead in the aftermath of a drinking party, Richard and his closest friends convene, troubled by the truth that it was an accident. Richard himself is deeply shaken -- not only that his fate may be sealed, but because it was only meant to be an accident. What's interesting is the dynamic portrayed by Richard and Conor before the incident: neither is antagonistic towards the other, and when Lara tries to break up with Conor, it's Richard who comes by willing to lend a hand. They all remain mates afterwards, and while Richard is constantly casting a sideways glance at his romantic competitor, they still trade beers and barbs. Even though Richard has been unnaturally cruel to Conor, there seems to be a basic understanding here. Lads before ladies, as gentlemen say.