Caleb Cotter experiences twists and turns on life’s highway at the Irish Shorts 5 programme at the 2019 Cork Film Festival.
It is an exhilarating experience going into a short film compilation having no idea what any of the films are. It’s made even better when the reel’s title indicates that you are to be shown a number of films with a vast range of styles, genres, tones and premises. This is what I wanted from Irish Shorts: It’s No Longer A Journey Down The Road, and I was satisfied with what I got; having been shown a brilliant showcase of weird, unique and creative films, from live action to animation.
Starting and ending the showcase were two strange and fantastic comedies: Eli Dolliver’s Lovestruck, in which an eccentric older woman is unlucky at finding love and Something Doesn’t Feel Right by Fergal Costello, where we see the trouble a classic slasher villain faces in setting up his perfect kills.
Lovestruck set the showcase’s tone perfectly, blending almost creepy surreal tone with witty dialogue and an idiosyncratic lead performance by Eithne Horgan that leaves you laughing almost as much as you are baffled. On the other hand, Something Doesn’t Feel Right brilliantly gives us a brilliant subversion of the classic horror tropes as we see the time and effort it takes Zipface to set up his kills and the problems he endures when things don’t go as planned. It’s funny and surprisingly endearing as it is gory, ending the showcase with a standout film.
In between these comedies, there played some surprisingly riveting dramas. The first of these was Liam O’Neill’s Kathleen, in which a struggling writer finds inspiration in a dispossessed woman he invites into his home in a sad yet beautiful film with great lead performances. Then came Daniel Butler’s Leave the Road Behind You, in which a young man tries to wrestle control during a massive shift in his life. It was nice to see a film in Irish during the film, and the film itself had some great performances and editing, while its grim, gritty atmosphere perfectly encapsulated the turmoil the main character was going through. The last of these dramas was Michael-David McKernan’s HALO, a superb drama about a lonely taxi driver trying to protect his passenger from heartbreak. Shot completely from the passenger seat of the taxi, HALO tells an engaging and heart-wrenching story with captivating, believable performances from all involved. Top that with a brilliant screenplay and beautiful lighting, the film uses the limited space of the taxi to its advantage in order to convey exactly what it wants to, which earned it’s director a well-deserved award at the Festival’s Award Ceremony.
Finally, the short film reel showcased a trio of fantastic animated films that brought unique art styles to the forefront. The first was Streets of Fury a charming five-minute film in which the muscular protagonist of an ’80s ‘beat em up’ arcade game gets transported to the world of a much calmer game. Switching between a retro ’80s feel and a children’s book aesthetic, the film is captivating with fantastic animation, a sincere amount of heart and fantastic music (including an classic arcade game remix of the Rocky training theme) and is a simple joy to watch. Meanwhile, The Dream Report gave a stylised red-and-black airbrush art style to its strange, eerie interweaving moments of a man’s daily life and abstruse messages from out of space. The film beautifully induces a calming mind-numbing sensation, pulling you into its world and simply carrying you along its journey with its deadpan voiceover. However, the standout of the animated films was John Don’t Know Nothin’! where a successful star of a family sitcom gets into a heated conversation with his taxi driver. Trippy, eerie and sometimes downright terrifying, the film uses every trick in the book to portray its tale of sorrow and despair, from its beautifully contrasting colours and an art style that transitions back and forth between the simplicity of a children’s book and that if a surrealist painting to its fantastic writing and changing aspect ratio. After watching it, I couldn’t help but give a deep breath at what I had seen; its visuals and profoundness swirling around my brain long after I had left the cinema.
Overall, It’s No Longer A Journey Down The Road was a fantastic showcase of a myriad of creative, unique films, any of which I’d highly recommend seeking out.
The Irish Shorts 5: It’s No Longer A Journey Down The Road programme screened on Fri., 15th Nov 2019 as part of the Cork Film Festival (7 – 17 November 2019).