While the Galway Film Fleadh is always an occasion to set the real world aside for a few days and jump knee deep into multiple film viewings, alas, one can’t throw their arms around everything. Here is a quick rundown on what this viewer was able to catch during Fleadh 2012.
Finally, the Irish genre film elevated to a whole new level. The central premise of inebriation being the only defence against alien monsters that are attacking a remote Donegal island could have easily taken a wrong turn into pandering and paddywhackery. Thankfully, the filmmakers find just the right tone nearly every step of the way and turn Ireland’s most clichéd attribute into a winning plot device that is neither cheap nor insulting. Jon Wright’s sharp direction, Kevin Lehane’s clever writing and an excellent cast have great fun with horror movie conventions, and they collectively carve out an entertaining romp that Irish (and hopefully other) audiences can proudly embrace.
The Good Man
A simple but risky concept: two storylines, one following a disaffected black teen in South Africa, and the other in Belfast detailing a jaded white businessman’s unravelling; both are told in parallel and only ever intersect in tangential fashion. No one from either storyline ever shares a scene or has any direct interaction with anyone from the other. Still, both storylines are morality plays, and the well-intended actions in Belfast of Aiden Gillen’s international property broker does eventually have a detrimental effect of the township young Thabang Sidloyi lives in. It’s a dicey gamble writer-director Phil Harrison takes, and he manages to pull it off beautifully. The finely tuned, extremely well balanced script is bolstered by powerful yet understated performances and straightforward storytelling that, thankfully, scrupulously avoids any soapbox moralising.
Writer-director Gerard Barrett’s highly effective documentary style drama paints a grim portrait of isolation and the dwindling prospects for small farmers in rural Ireland. Joe Mullins gives an utterly naturalistic performance as Jimmy Walsh, whose life on his ramshackle farm is downbeat enough at the start and then hits a bad patch from there. Pilgrim Hill is a one of those films that is increasingly uncomfortable to watch, but is so accomplished in its portrait of the human drama, you simply can’t look away. Compelling but heart-breaking stuff.
The lives of a group of Derry youngsters are chronicled on one fateful New Year’s Eve. The individual strands and fractured timeline all come together seamlessly to generate genuine suspense, drama and humour. Kieron J. Walsh’s direction is nimble throughout and the ensemble cast terrific from top to bottom. It’s a pleasure to see a Derry set film that isn’t about the Troubles and doesn’t even mention them once. An extremely accomplished and highly enjoyable film that deserves to travel beyond the confines of Ireland.
King of the Travellers
Writer-director Mark O’Connor’s follow-up to the brash, bravado fuelled Between the Canals is a saga set in the world of the Travellers. While the access and insight into the Traveller world is fascinating, the plot machinations seem underdeveloped and come off as an increasingly slapdash concoction of other films and stories: The Godfather, On the Waterfront, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Shane (amongst other westerns), and too many others to count. O’Connor has the vision and energy of a young Irish Scorsese – he’s truly a talent to watch. He just needs his Paul Schrader to come along and give him a script he can take to the next level. At present, his scriptwriting ability is his biggest liability.
The real life tale of Terri Hooley, who, in the midst of the Troubles in the 70s, decides to open a record shop on the Belfast’s most bombed street and then goes on to champion the city’s burgeoning punk scene. A game cast and superior production design help make the film a true prism of the time, and Good Vibrations succeeds brilliantly in authentically capturing the period detail, mood, and historical relevance. However, it is in the personal/domestic story where the film stumbles somewhat. The depiction of Hooley’s home life simply seems pedestrian in comparison to the rest of the events. Still, a great achievement and a fine, entertaining film.