Deirdre Molumby pursues Paul Mercier’s modern take on the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne, which screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.
After an attempted hit on his life, from which his right hand man, Diarmuid (Barry Ward), saves him, gangster boss Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Liam Cunningham) decides to get married. He is talked into choosing his enemy’s daughter Gráinne (Ruth Bradley) as his bride as the union could lead to a mutually beneficial alliance. Fionn begins to court the significantly younger Gráinne but on the night they get engaged, Gráinne runs away and forces Diarmuid to go with her. As the two of them journey from the city to the west of Ireland, meeting various characters along the way, war between the families ensues as several parties pursue the couple.
What can be at times be an awkward and over-the-top script is acted so straight by its ensemble – which includes Brendan Gleeson and David Pearse – that one soon settles into the silliness of the story and finds themselves laughing in spite of themselves. Production quality throughout the film also varies quite a lot. Though its money launderers and drug trade gangsters, as well as the casting of Ruth Bradley, all draw comparisons to TV series Love/Hate, the film is much lighter in its content, although its attempts to be emotionally harrowing are undercut by its comedy. In its attempts to be both a comedy and a tragedy, it ends up not really being either.
Like Song of the Sea, Paul Mercier’s film is an admirable feat in its modern take on Irish mythology, adapting the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne and transforming it into a road movie and gangster thriller for a contemporary audience. The influences from the original play version can also be seen and as Paul Mercier himself explained in a Q&A following its screening in Galway, the preceding play had visible filmic elements while the movie carries numerous theatrical influences. Overall, Pursuit is a rather mixed bag. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to its future audiences.
Pursuit screened on Friday, 10th July as part of the Galway Film Fleadh (7 – 12 July 2015)