Patricks Day’s – Review of Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh



Conor Fleming checks out Terry McMahon’s Patrick’s Day, which screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.


‘When I first saw Terry McMahon’s first film, Charlie Casanova, I hated it’, claimed festival programmer Gareth O’Brien as he introduced Terry’s latest film, Patrick’s Day, to the audience in the sold out Galway theatre. ‘But then I watched it a few more times and it had something that kept drawing me back to it’, he continued before going on to describe the polarising reception Terry’s debut feature has had, with mention that his latest film Patrick’s Day, is just as challenging and polarizing as you would expect.


Patrick’s Day is a powerful drama that focuses on title character Patrick (Moe Dunford), a young man suffering with mental health issues and the offbeat relationship that develops between him and suicidal air hostess Karen (Catherine Walker). A relationship that is threatened by the ever growing presence of Patrick’s obsessive mother Maura (Kerry Fox) who seeks to separate them with a misguided and almost ignorance attitude into how to handle her son’s illness.


It is a film whose powerful and engaging themes are in danger of being eclipsed by the performances of the main cast; with Kerry Fox and rising star Moe Dunford in particular giving exceptional performances. Moe, when asked about what research he had done for the film, replied, “none”, as he has lived with familiar member’s with mental illness. This was not just any role for him, but one he lived, a fact that shines through brightly in its unflinching accuracy and impactful delivery.
A drama of this nature can often time feel a little too overwhelming, which again runs the problem of driving away some potential suitors who would otherwise thoroughly enjoy the film. Thankfully this was something it seems Terry was aware of as the main cast is rounded out with Phillip Jackson playing police officer and aspiring comedian John Freeman, whose witty humour and flat-falling dad jokes gives the script some lift in area’s much needed.


McMahon’s writing skill is apparent from the get go, and whose style of direction seems to blend perfectly with the expert work of cinematographer Michael Lavelle. Shot in a simplistic yet incredibly technical manner, it is the perfect display of technique meeting storytelling resulting in a staggeringly beautiful film. Particular mention must go to a sequence in the third act, one which is truly horrific but incredibly powerful, and one which solidifies the message of the film; with memories of a similar sequence from Requiem for a Dream – it is truly one that must be seen to be believed.

The difference between Patrick’s Day and McMahon’s previous work is that Patrick’s Day is immediately identifiable as a stand-out film on first viewing; one that has an impact and message that will only grow stronger with time. By his own admission, director Terry McMahon set out to make a difficult film. Not a film to please a majority film audience but one to do its subject matter justice, and to prove there is an audience for challenging, emotional films. Given the care this movie treated its often mishandled subject matter, Patrick’s Day’s is an incredible display of the impact a movie can truly have if you let it.


Click here for our coverage of Irish Film at the 26th Galway Film Fleadh  (8 – 13 July, 2014)


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