Louise Gallagher, producer of ‘A Bump Along the Way’

 

A Bump Along the Way tells the story of fun-loving, 44-year-old single mum Pamela who becomes pregnant following a one night-stand, much to the shame of her buttoned-up teenage daughter Allegra. As Pamela deals with the prospect of becoming a mum for the second time and Allegra has problems fitting in with her peers, the challenges they face  provide mother and daughter with a better understanding of themselves and each other.

Filmed entirely in Derry and led by an all-female creative team, A Bump Along the Way stars Bronagh Gallagher and Lola Petticrew and is directed by Shelly Love, written by Tess McGowan and produced by Louise Gallagher. 

Gemma Creagh chats with Louise Gallagher about how the production came together.

How did the project come about?

For this project, myself, Shelly Love [director] and Tess McGowan [writer] were put together through Northern Ireland Screen’s New Talent Focus programme at the end of March 2018. It was fairly intense. We’d never met before. We had to get to know each other in a very short time, make this film and deliver it by March 2019. So we’ve done it all within a year. 

 

That’s a fast turnaround considering how long projects normally take to develop. 

Tess was writing this while she was pregnant with her second baby and she had sent it into Northern Ireland’s New talent Focus Call on spec. It got selected for the New Writers’ Focus. I was asked to come and interview for the job last March or early April last year and once I was on board I had to find a director. Then we hit the ground running. So the actual development that we did would have started from around May last year and then we went into production with the first day of principal photography on the 14th of October. Basically in less than a year we managed to get the film shot and out to festivals and picked up for distribution… completely and utterly mental!

 

Would you be a creative producer? Would you have worked on the script?

Yes, I worked across everything. I had to find the script editor and the director.  Between myself, Shelley and Tess and our script editor, Liam Foley – we worked together remotely most of the time because Tess lives in Berlin, Liam lives in London, I live in Belfast and Shelly lives in Bangor. She had a very small baby at the time so wasn’t in the position to come up and down to Belfast all the time to meet me. A lot of the development happened via Skype and WhatsApp and the like – an international and remote way of making a film. This had its advantages and disadvantages at the same time. Nothing beats being in a room thrashing through ideas and seeing the whites of someone’s eyes. So it was difficult in those terms. But we had a deadline to meet and I think the blinkers were on for everyone. We just had to focus and crack on with it. While we were developing the script, at the same time I was up in Derry scouting locations, trying to get those locked down. At the same time, as the producer, I was trying to deal with the budget, and do the casting and all of that. Last year from about May through to October, it’s all a blur, I can hardly remember any of it. It’s just been insane! 

 

With the casting, was it a case of holding auditions or did you have a list of people you wanted to get?.

A combination of both. Shelly is not originally from the North, even though her father and mother are. She was very much relying on me to guide her in who were the main players and the good people to speak to and audition here. I had, of course, spotted Lola Petticrew on the BBC TV series Come Home. I knew straight away she’s a really good actor and, like I always do, the minute I see someone I like, I Google them. You can see who they are and who they’re with. Coincidentally, Lola’s with Hamilton Hodell, an agency in London. That’s the same agency as my sister, Bronagh. Of course, it’s the director’s ultimate decision – I can always advise, but obviously they have the final say in casting.  

I had directed her towards Lola and I had ideas in my head who we wanted to play some of the other roles like Finn, the good-looking boy, the heartthrob that Lola’s character, Allegra, falls in love with. His name is Dylan Reid and he’d been in the stage version of Good Vibrations.  I spotted him at a promotional afternoon in a Belfast hotel and the cast were playing a few songs from the play and he was there. He came up to say hello afterwards and it turned out he was from Derry and I thought: ‘Here we go!’ I think I’ve found my Finn. Then there’s the baby’s daddy, Barry the plumber. He is also an actor from Derry who I’d had my eye on for a while after watching him in a few shorts. I thought he was a really good actor and had a lot of potential. I put him forward to Shelly. So I had about 3 or 4 people in mind for the main roles. 

It was after this that Bronagh came on board as the lead. We were getting ready for a screening in London, and we were trying to put together a cast and going through who was available or not – and Bronagh was mentioned at one point.  Shelly said, ’Why can’t we have Bronagh as the lead? She’s a mid-40s woman from Derry.’

I was very conscious of being accused of casting my sister in the lead role because it’s my first movie and, to be fair, so was Bronagh. It was the first time she was going to do a lead role and carry a movie. Her agents look at scripts on a case-by-case basis. Just because I’m producing it, doesn’t mean it was definitely going to happen – although they always wanted to help and they really liked the project. But, of course, it all had to be right for everyone and dates had to align. 

Thankfully Bronagh really liked it and once herself and Lola were on board, we knew we had our two main characters. We had casting calls for the other characters. That all went really smoothly over the course of a weekend. The minute that Mary Moulds, who plays Bronagh’s best friend, Sinead, walked into the room,  I just knew it was her. For me, the audition was already done. She just brought such energy and the three of them gelled. It was perfect. The three of them brought that great fun the whole time to what was a very intense situation. We had 18 days to shoot this It was a lot of work to do but Bronagh and Lola were incredible. 

 

Did you do screen tests?

We didn’t have time for anything like that at all. Bronagh and Shelly did three days of rehearsals for the main scenes, the main emotional beats within the movie. We went into the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast and practically locked them in there for the three days. They just went through their main scenes line-by-line, scene by scene getting into the characters, digging deep and bonding as mother and daughter characters. The rest we worked through on the day because we just didn’t have the time. A lot of the dialogue was obviously written by Tess but some was a wee bit improvised every now and again. We did different takes and let it go under the guidance of Shelly – just to make it real. Most people who’ve watched the movie so far have commented on the authenticity. That’s what we’ve been able to achieve… probably without even realising it.

 

I think that having good strong female leads behind and in front of the camera, can  different atmosphere on set. Everybody really understands the subject and it’s a safe space.

That’s what I tried to create the whole time. It was a 50/50 balance in terms of crew.

 

It’s great to see Derry on the big screen!

I’m incredibly proud that I shot in town. Derry is 75 miles west of Belfast and over 100 miles north of Dublin. It’s doesn’t have  a substantial film/television infrastructure. But for me the heart of this story lay in the city. I just thought: ‘I’m going to make it in Derry. It’s my one opportunity. I may never get another chance.’ And I just did it. Maybe there were a couple of eyebrows raised but I knew I could. I had the contacts there and I knew once I had my production manager Chrissie Gallagher – who’s no relation, but definitely shares my DNA – plus Mark McCauley, our DoP, on board, that it was going to work out. I just knew in my gut it was going to be okay because they know me and between us, we just cracked the whip and got what we needed. We got Shelly up to Derry as soon as possible. We wanted her to get a feel for the city.  It actually went very quickly from there.  We contacted everyone we knew who could help us out in whatever way possible, from facilities to trucks to locations, which were tricky but we got them. The goodwill was just overwhelming.

 

If you love bawdy humour, heart warming plots and strong females leads then don’t miss A Bump Along the Way – in cinemas now.

A Bump Along the Way is in cinemas nationwide from 11th October 2019.

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Review: The Day Shall Come

DIR: Chris Morris • WRI: Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong • DOP: Marcel Zyskind • ED: Billy Sneddon • DES: Lucio Seixas • PRO: Iain Canning, Anne Carey, Christopher Morris, Emile Sherman • MUS: Christopher Morris, Sebastian Rochford, Jonathan Whitehead • CAST: Anna Kendrick, Danielle Brooks, Denis O’Hare

Chris Morris’ second feature The Day Shall Come continues in a similar vein to Four Lions. It features a hodgepodge of eccentrics that would take on the world-order in the name of Allah. In this case our potential jihadists are quite harmless. Led by the person with mental illness and well meaning Moses Al Shabazz, they have a non-violent jihad policy, preferring notional bow and arrows and dinosaurs to guns, when the day shall come. 

Moses and his impoverished little band eke out a frugal existence on the margins of society in Florida. Unfortunately, the FBI are looking for a patsy after a failed attempt to get a case against a stoned ‘terrorist’ they had already baited in order to target a spring break extravaganza with a large bomb. In one of the film’s funniest moments, we learn that the potential terrorist has a religious inspired phobia for the number five and is unwilling to press all the numbers required to detonate the device.  Moses’ eccentricities turn out to be even harder to manipulate than expected and it is only when he is facing eviction does he become a possible successful target for the FBI’s machinations.

There is no doubting Morris’ talent as a comedy writer and satirist, nor his huge influence on so many talents for good and bad. Brass Eye is still one of British television’s great achievements.  When someone mentions cake to me Brass Eye is the first thing that comes to mind, not actual cake. Unfortunately, Morris latest film is not one of his great achievements. Playing with an uneasy mix of drama and farce it feels at times like an overly complex South Park episode but lacking the topicality South Park has as part of its armoury.  There is no doubting the righteousness of his agenda and it is never less than amusing, but unfortunately as satire it all feels rather toothless. The farcical elements outweigh the drama that is required for it to have an impact and in the final denouement it goes where a Chris Morris venture would be expected to go but without any resonance.  We understand the implication of the film’s point of view but its manipulations along the way to get us there feel too contrived to have real emotional weight.  

At the beginning of the film a title tells us it is inspired by “One hundred true stories”, if some of these stories had been relayed to us in some way rather than alluded to, the film might have had a stronger impact instead of being just a cold, clever farce that tells us the FBI are bad guys.

Paul Farren

87′ 37″
15A (see IFCO for details)

The Day Shall Come is released 11th October 2019

The Day Shall Come – Official Website


 

 

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 Ireland, Canada and the Jewel of “Hollywood North” 

 

    

James Bartlett explains why Canada is one of the most popular locations for Hollywood and the important role The X-Files played.

It’s not Chicago, New Orleans or Boston that gets the bronze medal behind Los Angeles and New York. No, the third largest film centre in North America is Vancouver, an area that’s so popular with the studios that it’s often called “Hollywood North.” 

Like Ireland, Canada has benefited greatly from offering generous tax breaks, and the often-low Canadian dollar (and Euro) exchange rates can make shooting there a simple matter of economics.

Vancouver

More than that though, both have seen an upswing in new jobs, crew skills, production and studio facilities, and of course all that money that’s being spent there instead of somewhere else.

The so-called “Game of Thrones” effect has famously been almost life-changing for Belfast and Northern Ireland, and the global reach of Irish filmmaking took a symbiotic step last year when the inaugural Vancouver Irish Film Festival was held in late November. 

Its symbolic parent, the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF)  celebrated its 37th anniversary and this year the Irish films screening included Extra Ordinary.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was nearly 110 years ago when the Edison Manufacturing Company first took their cumbersome cameras to British Columbia and filmed The Cowpuncher’s Glove and The Ship’s Husband. Since then, Vancouver and its surrounding areas have stood in for almost everywhere in the world.

Like Dublin and Belfast, celebrities also find Vancouver more relaxed and low-stress, and there’s a long list of Canadian natives who have hit the big time (Ryan Reynolds, Seth Rogen, Jim Carrey, Ryan Gosling, Mike Myers, Rachel McAdams, Michael J. Fox, Keanu Reeves, Sandra Oh, Ellen Page, Christopher Plummer and many more).  

                   Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny

For years the coastal seaport of Vancouver flew under the radar until, like “Game of Thrones” did for Belfast, the worldwide success of “The X-Files” changed everything.  Starring Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, “The X-Files” filmed five of its original six seasons and the 2008 movie The X-Files: I Want to Believe in Vancouver, and then returned again for the six-episode revival a few years ago. 

Even with the show’s freaky monsters and strange aliens, Vancouver was probably the most versatile cast member, doubling for everywhere from Kazakhstan to Virginia as they filmed at countless locations around the city and beyond.

On a recent visit I recognized the distinctive “Angel of Stone” statue in Gastown, which featured in the 13th episode of season 1 (“Beyond the Sea”), but one of the most memorable locations was the lonely Britannia Mine Museum.

After gazing at the endless forests, snow-capped mountains and waterfalls and fjords during the drive along the Sea-to-Sky highway out of Vancouver, it appeared through the mist. 

Its grounds are scattered with old mining equipment, a Godzilla-sized yellow truck and a scary boxy “Man Car” that used to take the miners deep underground, but it’s the bizarre, 20-story office building cut into the side of a mountain that grabs your attention.

From 1900 – 1974 it was one of the biggest copper mines in the British Empire, and at one end of its cavernous interior 300-plus precarious wooden steps seem to go up into the heavens.

These rickety steps featured in “Paper Clip”, the second episode of the third “X-Files” season, which saw Mulder and Scully finding their names in some mysterious filing cabinets, chasing down some of the tunnels, and seeing a brightly-lit UFO.

The facility looked much spookier then than it does now, as it was given a multi-million-dollar renovation before it opened as a museum. Those steps too are part of a new, multi-media sensory experience called “Boom!”.

The X-Files – Paper Clip

Back outside in the sunlight, we were told about other films that were shot here at the mine or right nearby, and that included Intersection (1994), Double Jeopardy (1999), Insomnia (2002), Walking Tall (2004), Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed and Underworld: Evolution (2006), Star Trek Beyond (2016) and Okja (2017).

Of course, there are plenty of apps and maps if you want to take a tour of movie locations in Vancouver, Dublin and Belfast (or both countries for that matter), and while some of the movies might fade from memory, their influence will last much longer.

 

Currently based in Los Angeles, James Bartlett is a story analyst for the Sundance Institute, the Nicholl Fellowships, the UCLA Professional Screenwriting Program, the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards and National Geographic Films. He also reads for several UK regions, is the US consultant for Euroscript, and lectures across the UK and Ireland.

He’s available for private consultation at jbartlett2000@gmail.com

  

 

 

 

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Review: The Kitchen

 

DIR: Andrea Berloff • WRI: Andrea Berloff • DOP: Maryse Alberti • ED: Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Shane Valentino • PRO: Michael De Luca, Marcus Viscidi • MUS: Bryce Dessner • CAST: Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy, Domhnall Gleeson

(Contains minimal spoilers)

Adapted from a DC Comic of the same name, The Kitchen tells the story of three women in 1970s New York who take over the Irish Mafia while their husbands are in prison. Before the husbands are locked up, we see Kathy (Melissa McCarthy) helping her kids do homework, Claire (Elisabeth Moss) getting punched by her husband, and Ruby (Tiffany Haddish) being yelled at for buying the wrong beer. When they start to run out of money, they have to earn the respect of the neighbourhood in a system that only views women as wives and mothers. With all the elements of a gangster flick, The Kitchen is about creating a space for yourself in a man’s world.

A film you think will be about strong women running the Irish Mafia is undermined by one character’s need to be rescued. When Claire’s abusive husband is sentenced to prison, she smiles knowing she won’t be attacked for at least two years. With no employable skills “besides getting hit” Claire starts volunteering at a soup kitchen where she gets attacked and ends up in hospital. A short time later, she is sexually assaulted while taking out the bins, only to be saved by a new love interest, Gabriel (Domhnall Gleeson).

After this, Claire exacts revenge on her attacker and gains confidence in herself. It’s hard to know whether she has finally found her voice or has adapted to what her new boyfriend expects from her. Writer/director Andrea Berloff leans on the damsel in distress trope, where Claire is saved from the evils of New York City by a man, and not by her female friends. I left the film asking myself if Moss’ character really needed to be broken down in order for her to be built back up again? 

Berloff’s work highlights undervalued members of society (Straight Outta Compton) and their fight for respect as they try to achieve their goals. The domesticated leads are tired of being treated as wives and mothers, and not as fully-fledged human beings with dreams and aspirations. The characters create an indispensable role for themselves in the Irish Mafia, giving them a purpose outside the home. 

McCarthy, Haddish and Moss deliver great performances in a forgettable film. A rough reworking of the gangster film, The Kitchen shines a light on the characters who usually only exist in the background. 

Aoife O’Ceallachain

102′ 30″
16 (see IFCO for details)

The Kitchen is released 20th September 2019

The Kitchen – Official Website

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Review: Ready or Not

DIR: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett • WRI: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy • DOP: Brett Jutkiewicz • ED: Terel Gibson • DES: Andrew M. Stearn • PRO: Bradley J. Fischer, William Sherak, James Vanderbilt, Chad Villella, Tripp Vinson • MUS: Brian Tyler • CAST: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien

Weddings are supposed to be the happiest day of your life. The day when you get to become one with your life partner. Surrounded by your friends and family you make a promise to love and protect one another until the day you die. Words can’t comprehend how beautiful of a moment it is. There’s only one problem. Weddings don’t end with the newlyweds riding into the sunset. This is a wedding day after all. What occurs after the ceremony is the stuff of nightmares. People who have never spoken in their life are sitting beside each other while eating a meal which they have limited say in. The in-laws each want their family to be in the limelight. The groom must pray that his best man doesn’t deliver a speech that sends the couple on a honeymoon to the divorce office.  Your weird uncle Jim is busting moves that belong on no dancefloor in the world. Your wedding day no matter how much planning you do will feel like a wedding lifetime.

Ready or Not tells the story of wedding day unlike any other. Yes, all the awkwardness above still takes place. Yet, this wedding ends on a note that no wedding has ever ended on. A game of hide and seek where if you lose, you die. 

Grace (Samara Weaving) and Alex (Mark O’Brien) tie the knot in the garden of the groom’s family estate. The Le Domas family, who built quite the fortune in the boardgame business, don’t feel that a “lower-class” woman belongs in the family. Grace is similar in every way to the Le Domas family. Grace is funny, like best man/brother-in-law Daniel (Adam). She’s sympathetic, like her mother-in-law Becky (Andie MacDowell). She’s determined, like her father-in-law tony. She’s impulsive, to a much lesser degree than her new sister-in-law Emily.

The one thing that separates Grace from the Le Domas family is wealth. If she had an endless amount of money she would be as irrational as them. After all, the Le Domas family are so irrational they stick to their strict tradition of having whoever is entering the family play a game with them on their wedding night. When Grace draws the hide and seek card it quickly becomes clear that she would have been safer with a game of Monopoly. What follows is the blood thirstiest round of hide and seek you’ll ever witness. 

Every second of the game is glorious. This is a film that blends the horror elements of You’re Next with the comedy of Shaun of the Dead. Two films which belong in any horror fans top ten list. Ready or Not is destined to become a cult classic. Samara Weaving leads the screen with a performance that her uncle Hugo would be proud of. Weaving is charming, funny and electric in every scene that she’s in. Following up her scene-stealing performance in Three Billboards… and her ’80s feel performance in The Babysitter with acting that cements her as a star. Horror has been lacking in female stars for most of the decade. Samara Weaving joins Happy Death Day’s Jessica Roth in showing film fans that comedy-horror can be as thrilling as regular horror. The image of Weaving in her blood-drenched wedding dress is instantly iconic. In a way Grace is to wedding nights what Carrie is to Prom nights. 

Often in cat-and-mouse horror films, the villains are one-dimensional killing machines. Ready or Not excells thanks to its vibrant supporting cast. Every single member of the Le Domas family is ridiculous. Adam Brody as Daniel spends the entire film without a filter. Watching Brody call out his family members for the garbage they are is delightful; he’s the only member of the family who knows how awful they are.

Henry Czerny has a blast as a father who is in over his head. No spoilers to what the family’s motives are but it’s amazing to see how Czerny tries to justify their murderous behaviour. Melanie Scrofano is outstanding as the drug-fuelled Emilie. Scrofano’s character is the most unbelievably ludicrous, yet she makes it work by committing to her character’s wild range of emotions. In the space of ten seconds she can go from hysterical laughter to hysterical sobbing. Emilie’s husband Fitch, played by Kristian Bruun, deserves a mention for being a comic relief who never grows infuriating.

The star of the Le Domas family is the mother played by Andie MacDowell. MacDowell has struggled to land memorable roles following her insanely successful nineties. In Ready or Not she reminds the world how talented she is. MacDowell manipulating everyone around her would feel fake if the actress didn’t commit to the role. The Le Domas family is horror’s version of the Bluth family. They even have their own Lucille Bluth in the form of Aunt Helene played by Nicky Guadagni with just the right amount of bitterness. 

When looking at the previous work from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, it’s a miracle that Ready or Not is as good as it is. The directing duo’s previously worked on segments from the underwhelming anthologies V/H/S and Southbound. The only feature they had made in full before Ready or Not was the atrocious Devil’s Due. Yet, with Ready or Not the duo commit to making the most of their brilliant premise. While no one is going to come out of this film thinking about the direction, Olpin and Gillett deserve praise for making a film that they can both be proud of.

The film was written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy. Murphy is known for making content that is in your face. From Glee to American Horror Story, everything that Murphy has created has never been afraid to be exactly how he imagined. Ready or Not is at the higher end of insane ideas that Murphy has had, yet it never goes off the rails. Busick may have been there to stop Murphy from going too crazy with his ideas. While always out there, Ready or Not doesn’t jump the shark. Keep in mind that Ryan Murphy is the man who managed to put aliens, the pope and an evil therapist into a single episode of American Horror Story

Ready or Not puts the fun back into horror. Midsommar, The Witch and A Ghost Story have all recently terrorised audiences by taking them on a mental trip. It’s wonderful to see an ’80s-esque horror back on our screens. A key element of horror is to entertain your audience as much as you try to scare them. You’ll struggle to find a film as entertaining as Ready or Not this year. From Samara Weaving’s star-making performance to the brilliant final 10 minutes, this is pure insanity. You just need to ask yourself. Are you ready or not? 

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

95′ 14″
16 (see IFCO for details)

Ready or Not is released 27th September 2019

Ready or Not – Official Website

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Review: Don’t Let Go

DIR/WRI: Jacob Estes • DOP: Sharone Meir • ED: Billy Fox, Scott D. Hanson• DES: Celine Diano • PRO: Jason Blum, David Oyelowo • MUS: Ethan Gold • CAST: Alfred Molina, David Oyelowo, Storm Reid, Byron Mann

From the people who brought you Get Out, comes Don’t Let Go, a time-travel murder mystery. Detective Jack Radcliffe (David Oyelowo) receives a disturbing call from his teenage niece, Ashley (Storm Reid). By the time he reaches her house, she has been murdered along with her parents, Jack’s brother Garret (Brian Tyree Henry) and his wife Susan (Shinelle Azoroh). In the following weeks, Jack starts getting phone calls from Ashley, four days before her death. They must work together to solve Ashley’s murder – before it can happen. Written and directed by Jacob Aaron Estes (Mean Creek, Rings), this time-travel mystery gets lost along the way.  

Although the premise piqued my interest, the time-travel elements left much to be desired. The only hint of a sci-fi element is a flashing red light that appears when timelines crossover. The time-travel effect doesn’t work because the characters talk to each other in the same location, shot separately. What you would expect to be the attraction of the film, becomes its downfall, leaving the impression of a film made for much less than $5 million.

Blumhouse’s philosophy is to make low-budget films, usually 3-5 million dollars, give the director creative control and release them to audiences around the world. Notably, this is the second Blumhouse production this year with a majority black cast, after Thriller, directed by Dallas Jackson. It’s refreshing to see a script brought to life by black actors when there are no explicit racial references and could easily have been cast with white actors.

But there are frustrating holes in the script that are hard to ignore. For example, having two characters use their smartphones to actually call each other feels out of place in 2018 (when the story takes place). Calling someone is the last thing a teenager does with their phone. At one point in the film, Ashley sees a suspicious car in her driveway and tries to describe it to her uncle over the phone rather than taking photos. It’s a large oversight considering Jack uses Ashley’s camera roll to prove to her he’s in the future. 

Ultimately, the story is about how the bad choices we make influence our lives forever, and if we can save ourselves from the past. How Jack decides to be a father figure to his niece when his brother’s drug-dealing past comes back to haunt him. There’s a poignancy in the relationship between Jack and Ashley, and I wish they had more scenes together in the same timeline. 

Overall, Don’t Let Go is a middle-of-the-road movie. It’s a shame the plot didn’t live up to the premise, with the story co-written by Drew Daywalt – author of the successful picture book The Day the Crayons Quit. The greatest potential in the film comes from the original music by Ethan Gold that sounds like a mixture of Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight” (Shutter Island, Arrival) and Cliff Martinez’s ethereal “He Had a Good Time” from Drive (2011). 

The film’s mantra is ‘you save me, I save you’ with Detective Jack investigating the murders in the present and Ashley gathering clues in the past. The actors save each other with their stellar performances but are let down by the script. Maybe if Estes had dedicated more of the story to the supernatural elements as opposed to the detective narrative, the film would be worth a second watch.

Aoife O’Ceallachain

103′ 53″
15A (see IFCO for details)

Don’t Let Go is released 27th September 2019

Don’t Let Go– Official Website

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Review: Judy

DIR: Rupert Goold • WRI: Tom Edge • DOP: Ole Bratt Birkeland • ED: Melanie Oliver • DES: Kave Quinn • PRO: David Livingstone • MUS: Gabriel Yared • CAST: Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell

When watching The Wizard of Oz for the first or hundredth time you’ll be blown away by the magic of it all. A yellow brick road that will lead you to where you are meant to be. A tinman, lion, and scarecrow who despite having nothing physically in common with you’ll relate to their emotional complexity.  A witch who is among the dastardliest villains to ever grace the screen. A wizard who hides behind an illusion to mask his deepest insecurities. A score that will remain immortalised until the end of time. Everything about the film is perfect. Yet, it would all fall apart without Judy Garland. Garland at the age of 16 delivers a beautifully innocent performance that no other actor in the world could ever come close to performing. The innocence in Garland’s eyes adds layers of depth to the story. When she begs to go home there is never a dry eye in the house. The world has never had a talent quite like her. Without Judy Garland the magic of Oz would never be the same. 

Judy tells the story of the final chapter in Judy Garland’s (Renée Zellweger) legendary career. Struggling to make ends meet and fearing the prospect of losing her children to her ex-husband (Sydney Lufet), Garland agrees to perform in a series of concerts in London. From the prologue, it’s clear that Judy is going to break your heart into a million little pieces. The scene which sees a young Judy (Darci Shaw) being pushed into taking the role of Doherty by Louis B. Mayer (Richard Cordery) is nothing short of devastating. Seeing a mogul full of power essentially threaten a young girl into taking a role hits harder considering all the awful things that have come out from the industry in the last few years. A horrible event that takes place on the set of Oz shows us from the start that Judy’s life was all but magic. 

As the film continues and we spend time with adult Judy, it’s clear that this is the role that Renée Zellweger was born to play. Zellweger is spectacular as Judy Garland. She possesses the charm that wowed audiences for decades in bucketloads. It’s the side of Garland that many may be unaware of where Zellweger makes this her career-best performance. Considering the turbulent rise that Garland had, she was never going to have a normal life. Seeing her Garland cope with such an abnormal life is painful. Turning to booze and drugs as a comfort, Garland is wearing a mask to the public. It’s almost as if the actress regressed into a childlike state in her later years, which is understandable considering that she was robbed from ever having one.

Judy is isolated in the world, with no real friends to love and care for her. Everyone wants her to perform and put on a smile, but no one wants to be there when she needs them the most. Zellweger’s performance is one of an actor whose worst fear is to have the same fate as Garland. In a heart-wrenching rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” Zellweger pours her soul into every single word of the song. There won’t be a dry eye in any cinema once the credits of Judy begin to roll. In an age where biopics are being released at a rapid pace, Renée Zellweger may have delivered the most beautiful performance of them all. 

What makes Judy riveting is the decision not to stray away from the actor’s struggles. Biopics often stray away from the truth as they try to sanitize their subject matter in order not to cause offense. A major issue that plagued Bohemian Rhapsody. Judy does not shy away from showing the hardships that Garland endured. From being forced to take pills at a young age to attaching herself to men who don’t deserve her in an attempt to feel loved, there isn’t much happiness to be found in the film.

Director Rupert Gold was never going to lie to his audience. The final few months of Garland’s career were emotionally exhausting. Gould’s honesty behind the camera would have made Garland proud. His direction is low key, which is exactly what the film required. The only major moment of direction is when Garland is on stage. Instead of filling her numbers with background dancers and vivid images, Gould chooses to have only Judy and her band on stage. A decision which makes the viewer feel as if they are at one of her shows. At times the script from Tom Edge can feel like it came straight from a soap opera, there are a few moments involving her love interest Mickey (Finn Wittrock) that you’d see down in the Queen Vic. Edge makes up for these moments with an all-timer final line. No spoilers here but it will break you as a human being. 

Judy more than does justice to the legacy of Judy Garland. Aided by rising star Jesse Buckley as her tour assistant, Rosalyn, Zellweger gives the performance of a lifetime. At the very least she’ll be waiting to hear an Oscar result in the Dolby Theatre come February. Darci Shaw as the younger Judy is as convincing as the legendary child actor. Shaw has a bright future ahead of her and will have all the support systems around her to make sure she’s comfortable every step of the way. It’s important for younger audiences to know what the world used to be like for rising stars. It’s up to us to ensure that Hollywood never regresses back to its former state. Even though she is no longer with us we can get justice for Judy Garland. Somewhere over the rainbow she’ll be watching down on us with a smile. 

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

117′ 42″
12A (see IFCO for details)

Judyis released 4th October 2019

Judy– Official Website

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