Cathy Butler attended the screening of An Bronntanas, which closed this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.
Despite the World Cup final running concurrently, the main auditorium of the Town Hall Theatre was packed out for the closing screening of the 26th Galway Film Fleadh, Tom Collins’ An Bronntanas, a crime thriller set in Connemara.
The opening credit sequence gives off a very televisual style, and upon further investigation it seems that this is a feature film incarnation of what will also be a television mini-series. This correlates with the tone of the film, which does veer more towards the televisual than cinematic.
JJ (Dara Devaney), an Irish engineer working in Canada, receives a call from home concerning his father’s death. Upon returning to Connemara, he is burdened with his father’s failing business and the wrath of the local employees whose jobs are in danger. When a call comes in about a boat in distress, JJ, his brother Macdara (Pól Ó Gríofa), and another lifeboat volunteer Jakub (Janusz Sheagall) venture out to assist. What they find is a boat with a murdered woman and a million euro worth of cannabis on board. The three men are then faced with the choice of contacting the police or keeping the drugs and selling them themselves. There is a complex scheme at work, however, as the brothers discover.
This is a well-scripted thriller, with some nice twists and misdirection, especially in relation to perceived suspicious outsider Jakub. A Polish man living locally, Jakub becomes one of the most engaging characters as the film goes on, moving between shades of threatening and empathetic with great ease. As the lead, JJ is somewhat lacking in characterisation, and the moral dilemma presented by the boat full of drugs lacks the dramatic tension such a scenario would promise. He is very easily swayed to wrong-doing by his hapless brother Macdara, despite being presented as the more upstanding of the two. Charlotte Bradley is intriguing as the cool-headed, resourceful mother to the two men, though the source of her hardened pragmatism is unclear.
The film is described as being as Gaeilge, which it predominantly is, but it could also be described as a trilingual film, given its use of Irish, English and Polish, almost symbolic of Ireland’s contemporary linguistic landscape.
This is a well-plotted narrative, which situates itself well in contemporary rural Ireland, managing to hit the right notes of a thriller without it seeming incongruous to the location. The film also makes great use of the variety of the Connemara landscape, in both the violence of the choppy seas and the sweeping valleys. And as noted by Gar O’Brien, the festival programmer, in his introduction of the film, it is certainly fitting to have a Galway film close the Galway Film Fleadh.