Galway Film Fleadh 2012 Cinema Review: The Rafters

DIR: John Carney • WRI: John Carney • PRO: Macdara Kelleher, Martina Niland  • DOP: P.J. Dillon • ED: Nathan Nugent • Cast: Marcella Plunkett, Killian Scott, Sean Donegan, Maire O’Neill, Des Nealon.

I can honestly say I was really looking forward to seeing what The Factory did with The Rafters and how Carney would transition as a director. But sadly, I was a little disappointed. Carney told such a beautiful story with Once, even managing an Oscar® nomination and then a win! Once was such an imaginative love story about a busker and an immigrant in Dublin. The choice of music for the film was complete perfection even The Academy agreed. I didn’t think it unrealistic to hold my expectations high. I don’t want to slate the movie because  a lot of time and effort went into making the film but I really think Carney missed a nice opportunity to return to the supernatural world.

A young woman Rose (Marcella Plunkett) is consumed by her past that consistently haunts her every thought making it difficult for her to move on and leave the past behind her. She decides to return to the place where all the dark memories have stemmed from, making her way to a guest-house on the Aran Islands. Along the way she acquires two admirers in the form of American backpackers (Killian Scott, Sean Donegan). All three arrive at the house and are shown to separate rooms. Later they hear what sounds like footsteps and furniture moving above their heads where only the attic lies. An eerie presence looms throughout the house which the boys quickly set aside as they fix their attentions on Rose. Either from boredom, out of callousness or simply due to the lack of women in their age range on the island they decide to hedge their bets to see which one of them can bed the sleep deprived Rose. Each of the boys take turns to woo their unsuspecting plaything while she falls deeper into her own dreamlike world. However, this is more than just a competition between men but also a task in jealously, as there’s slight undertones to suggest that the backpackers are more then just friends!

The film was described as a supernatural drama with nightmarish images and it might have made for a nice short film. The Rafters seems to want to say something that is lost in scenes unrelated to the movie that should have ended up on the cutting room floor. All that being said it looked beautiful and if nothing else it’s a great campaign for Tourism Ireland. The Aran Islands look amazing, capturing an ancient, rural and magical Ireland.  The strong lacework of ancient stone walls, wild plants and pallet of grays, blues and greens all manage to create a sense of tone. There is one beautiful shot as Rose looks out over the cliff face as a furious ocean engulfs the limestone rock but sadly the poor story line lets the film down.

Lynn Larkin

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