Deirdre Molumby was at the premiere of Simon Fitzmaurice‘s film My Name is Emily, which opened this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.
The opening film at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh was life-affirming and truly extraordinary given the feat that it took to make the feature. Simon Fitzmaurice, the director of My Name is Emily, was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease in 2008. It did not, however, deter him from continuing to make movies (having previously directed award-winning shorts Full Circle and The Sound of People), and so he wrote the script for My Name is Emily and used iris-recognition technology to direct the film. Simon Fitzmaurice was present at the screening in Galway as were a number of cast and crew members.
The film stars Harry Potter starlet and Irish actress Evanna Lynch in the titular role. Evanna also attended the Fleadh and thanked the director for his incredible hard work on the movie. On behalf of all the cast present – who also included George Webster and Michael Smiley – she expressed their extreme gratitude at being a part of his film and said that he was an inspiration to them all throughout the project. In a Q&A following the screening, the writer-director himself stated that the film was made for his children, to teach them to never give up.
My Name is Emily follows a sixteen year old girl (Lynch) who lives with foster parents. We follow the events of Emily’s emerging into her parents’ life, her father (Smiley) becoming a motivational writer, her mother (Deirdre Mullins) passing away, and her father eventually being committed to a psychiatric institution. As a result, Emily grows up into a rebellious, apathetic teenager, but one with a distinctive and even philosophical view of the world. A fellow student, Arden (Webster), recognises this in Emily and while others think her existential questioning is ‘weird’, Arden finds himself immediately attracted to her. Soon after her birthday, Emily decides to leave home and break her father out of the institution, enlisting Arden’s help. They embark on a road trip across Ireland, learning much about life and death, as well as loss and letting go, along the way.
As the above summary promises, the film is simple and sweet throughout, and makes a welcome addition to what can often be overwhelmingly bleak Irish cinema. Last year’s Fleadh winners for Best Irish Film, Glassland and Patrick’s Day, provide two examples of this while this year’s winner, the feel-good and visually enrapturing family animation Song of the Sea, reveals a trend that lighter content is in greater demand as of late (My Name is Emily itself took the runner-up prize for Best First Irish Feature this year at the Fleadh, after Mark Noonan’s You’re Ugly Too).
My Name is Emily is touching in its depiction of the irrepressible bonds of family and funny in its relating of being a socially awkward, weird teenager. It mourns loss but ultimately celebrates life. The photography of Seamus Deasy (who won an award in Galway for his work) is quite remarkable, giving the film a transparent and otherworldly effect. The casting is also on form with Lynch and Webster as the endearing young leads while the tragic character of Robert, Emily’s father, is given a sensitive, poignant performance by Smiley. Big thumbs up.
My Name is Emily screened on Tuesday, 7th July as part of the Galway Film Fleadh (7 – 12 July 2015)