Review of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival 2019: The Last Right

Kimberly Reyes checks in on new Irish comedy-drama The Last Right, Aoife Crehan’s feature debut, which premiered at the Cork Film Festival.

 

There are many reasons why one should not strike up a conversation with a nosey stranger on a long-haul flight. One of them would be ending up with an unwanted corpse to unload. This is the premise of newcomer Aoife Crehan’s comedy drama The Last Right. The film, written and directed by Crehan, plays on the tragedies of each of its character to create a humorous and absurd journey. 

Dutch actor Michiel Huisman has a fresh and alluring onscreen presence as Daniel Murphy, the film’s protagonist, an American who must come back ‘home,’ to Ireland, to deal with some unfinished business. Samuel Bottomley’s performance as the autistic teen Lois (Daniel’s main business) is even more affecting. 

But if you’ve seen Weekend at Bernie’sRain Man and The Legend of Billie Jean, you’ve kind of seen this film already, sans Irish accents and countryside. At points The Last Right is derivative enough to be parody: there’s a scene in which Daniel chases Lois in the rain as Lois runs out of the moving vehicle because he doesn’t feel safe. I sure hope Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman signed off on the tribute. But this scripting of autism doesn’t feel as tight and nuanced as it did in 1988 when Rainman was released, even if Hoffman’s character only represented a small percentage of autistics, as Lois oddly mentions in this film. 

And then there is the tired rom-com trope of a bad boy who keeps messing up after he reveals his dirty secret, which would lead many women to flee, but not his loyal, good-girl, manic pixie dream girl Mary (played by Niamh Algar). This setup is as old as the aforementioned movies the film “borrows” from, and it’s difficult to watch a woman earn a spot in a complicated man’s heart through enduring his meanness in this political climate. Having said that, the onscreen chemistry between Huisman and Algar is palpable. 

The movie shines when it centres on its characters’ lives in Ireland that could only take place in Ireland: a hilarious scene in a chipper, and relatable stories of Irish angst and youth (told as plot-tying reflection that could have been better served as flashback), and of course the stunning scenery of their journey from Clonakilty to Rathlin Island. And the journey’s pacing is entertaining most of the way through but making comedy out of tragedy is an Irish specialty that shouldn’t need to borrow any Americanness.

The Last Right screened on Thursday, 14th November as part of the 2019 Cork Film Festival (7 – 17 November).

 

The Last Right is released in Irish cinemas on 6th December 2019.

 

Share

Review of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival 2019: Irish Shorts 4: Finding Their Place

Aoife O’Ceallachain went along to the Irish Shorts 4: Finding Their Place to find some great filmmakers and films with characters seeking acceptance, vindication, assurance or literally accommodation.

 

On the afternoon of Thursday the 14th of November, I went along to the fourth instalment of Irish Shorts at the Gate Cinema. Under the title ‘Finding Their Place’, this collection of films showcases characters dealing with homelessness, feeling trapped and trying to find their purpose. The programme proved to be a showcase for some great emerging talent and I left the cinema excited about all the work these filmmakers are going to make in the future. For anyone looking to get involved in the film industry, going to shorts is a great place to start. You get a sense of the other work out there and you’ll start to see the same names come up again and again. It really opened my eyes to the talent we have, and the talent we as a nation have to nourish. With that said, I want to draw attention to a few shorts that caught my eye. 

 

Humblebrag

Sinead O’Shea / Ireland / 2019 / 4 mins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Humblebrag had the biggest audible reaction. Directed by Sinead O’Shea (A Mother Brings her Son to Be Shot) we see a man and woman sit down on a sofa, where he shows her a montage he’s made of their relationship. It starts off normal enough, showing clips of her at gigs, on dates, at Electric Picnic and at the funfair. But the content starts to get darker, more annoyed, past the phase of pretence. Have to say it was too graphic for me at 6 o’clock on a Thursday – I just wasn’t expecting to see POV porn. But I guess the unexpected is part of the fun. At only 4 minutes it certainly packs a punch, best saved for after the watershed. 

 

Rosalyn

Olivia J Middleton / UK, Ireland / 2019 / 18 mins

Winner of Best Cork Film, Olivia J. Middleton’s Rosalyn is a psychological horror about a farmer who is expecting a child. As the delivery date looms, Rosalyn starts to see a disturbing figure coming out of the woods; animals become scared of her. Is Rosalyn imagining all this or are malevolent forces at play? Tackling themes of isolation, mental health during pregnancy and the expectations of motherhood, the film manages to teeter between delusion and reality. With influences of Jennifer Kent’s Babadook, Middleton’s haunting film leaves a lot to the imagination and inspired great discussion after the credits.  

 

In Orbit

Katie McNeice / Ireland / 2019 / 17 mins

Directed, written, produced and edited by Katie McNeice, In Orbit is a sci-fi short set in the 2050s. Maura, a retired optician is asked to describe the best experience of her life for the Human Experience Records. Maura recalls how she had never had a relationship, and how it altered the way she viewed the world. But that all changed in her forties, when she met Amy. Ultimately, In Orbit is about taking chances and opening your heart to new experiences, no matter how scared you are. Maura’s memories of the marriage equality referendum capture the gravity of the moment as a change for Ireland, further reflected in the futuristic technology of the 2050s. Composer Emer Kinsella brings great atmosphere to the film and elevates it to another level. I personally can’t wait to see what McNeice brings out next.

 

The Irish Shorts 4: Finding Their Place programme screened on Saturday, 9th November 2019  as part of the Cork Film Festival (7 – 17 November 2019).

 

 

Share

Review of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival 2019: Sweetness in the Belly

 

Caleb Cotter checks out Sweetness in the Belly, a Canadian-Irish co-production of an adaptation of Camilla Gibb’s bestseller, directed by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari.

Before seeing Zeresenay Berhane Mehari’s second feature as director, I decided to spend a few minutes online researching it. Immediately, I found that it was under scrutiny for having Dakota Fanning play a “White Ethiopian Muslim”, a controversy the internet had created based off short clips of the film released online. Soon after, I closed my laptop and moved on to something productive, ready to let the film speak for itself. After watching, I couldn’t help but see the irony of the controversy, as the film seemed to argue similar points to what people had argued against it online.

Based on Camilla Gibb’s book of the same name, Sweetness in the Belly starts with Lilly (Dakota Fanning), a white Muslim woman, travelling to Britain as a refugee after the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution. She is immediately given priority over the other Muslim women, much to their dismay, but immediately sets about trying to help her fellow refugees and settle into British society. This journey is intercut with flashbacks to Lilly past, where we discover she was abandoned by her British parents at a young age at a Sufi shrine in Ethiopia and was raised by the Sufi master, and falls in love with Dr Aziz Nasser (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) during the final years of Haile Selassie’s reign, who she is trying to find in the present.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on in this film, and the film is able to carry out the story in an emotional and sincere way. Also, like his previous film Difret, Mehari delves fully into exploring his home country of Ethiopia; from its culture, social and religious beliefs, its complex political history and the ways refugees from the region were treated and how they set up life upon reaching a new country.

However, while the exploration of such subjects is possibly the most interesting part of the film, it also proves to be its biggest shortcoming. It feels like the film doesn’t quite know where to focus its attention, splitting it between the myriad of complex themes and political histories, as well as Lilly’s story and journey. Due of this lack of focus, and despite Fanning’s best efforts, Lilly never feels like a rounded, believable person but more so a blank slate we can see the world from, which takes much of the wind out of her love story that the film spends so much time on. And since the film spends so much time on this love story, it only gets to dip its toes into each of the complicated subjects and thus never explores them as fully as it means to.

However, while Lilly is never given the time to develop beyond that of her role as the protagonist, the supporting cast carry the film and bring most of the emotional depth to it.  Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Aziz and Kunal Nayyar as an Indian doctor Lilly meets in a hospital in Britain shine as well-rounded individuals who attempt to charm Lilly throughout the film and bring great levity in the film’s darker moments.

But it is Wunmi Mosaku as Amina, a fellow Ethiopian refugee and mother of two who Lilly takes in, who is the stand-out performance, as her story and presence becomes the bedrock of the film and the centre of the film’s most emotional moments. These moments are supplemented with a beautiful array of colour that breaks up the usual grey look of dramas with moments that feel like technicolour was used. However, the film does get a little too stylish during its emotional climax, taking some of the punch out of the moment.

Despite its flaws, Sweetness in the Belly stands as a solid, emotionally driven drama that covers a variety of complicated topics, although its attempt to split its focus on both these aspects causes both to not be explored fully, leading to the film not leaving as much of an impact as it could have.

 

Sweetness in the Belly screened on Sun 10th Nov @ 17:45 & Mon 11th Nov as part of the 2019 Cork Film Festival (7 – 17 November).

 

  • Director: Zeresenay Berhane Mehari
  • Producer(s): Jennifer Kawaja
  • Screenwriter(s): Laura Phillips
  • Main Cast: Dakota Fanning, Wunmi Mosaku
  • Country: Ireland, Canada
  • Language(s): Subtitled
  • Year: 2019
Share

Irish Film Review: A Dog Called Money

 

DIR/WRI: Seamus Murphy

The opening scenes of A Dog Called Money brings into focus a scruffy, impish boy with button nose pressed against the window of a car as it stalls along a chaotic, noise-filled street. Viewers are locked inside that same car, witnessing the playful mischievousness of the child as his gaze fixes on the watchers. A sequence of emotions plays out across the boy’s face ranging from curiosity to marvel to a wider concept of inquisitiveness. So begins the stunning ode to director Seamus Murphy’s métier and PJ Harvey’s collaborative genius. 

Seamus Murphy is an award-winning photographer and director with an acute sense of observation – one that is intensely and sensitively connected to the wonders of the human condition. It is no accident that Murphy’s alliance with PJ Harvey became such a serendipitous perfect storm.  PJ Harvey in turn, is an artist who is not afraid of pushing change in order to effect creative growth. This made for an ideal partnership between the two.  

The model was conceived in order to lend PJ Harvey an apt conduit with which to record her 2016 album, The Hope Six Demolition Project. A room within a room was constructed inside Somerset House (styled on its website as ‘an experimental workspace for artists, makers and thinkers’). The interior room was soundproofed and had windows facing into the space, through which invited members of the public could look through but Harvey and her band could neither see nor hear the people watching them. It allowed the creative process to unfold at its own pace and on a level where Harvey overlooked the fact that she was being scrutinised. One of the conditions for those observing the installation, was that they relinquished recording equipment, phones and cameras and simply subsumed the experience. 

In psychology, there is a phenomenon known as the Observer Effect whereby changes in the behaviour of subjects comes about when they become aware they are being watched. Performers amend their actions when in front of an audience. At the onset, this could be said of the ‘viewed’ recording – however, as time passes, Harvey and her band lose sight of being observed – their behaviour becomes steadily more creative and achieves greater heights as they truly enter into maximum flow. 

Seamus Murphy and PJ Harvey travelled to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington D.C., where Harvey interacted with the people she met and Murphy filmed the process. What ensues is a mesh of originality and imagination – from the exuberant rappers in Washington D.C., narrating their story with wit and humour, to the people of Kosovo and musicians from Afghanistan – seeing and communicating as they weave their tales through music and words. Beginning with opening scenes during which viewers are witnessed and perceived, the journey of A Dog Called Money is that of a dazzling tangible manifestation – a type of chimeric blending as differences and processes fuse together in a genesis of beauty. 

Harvey and Murphy are the fasteners that suture and sew this beautiful construct. One with words, the other with images – carving an alliance that benefits and unifies, ultimately bringing forth its own potent and unique creation.  

This is a documentary well worth viewing. 

 

June Butler

93′ 46″
15A (see IFCO for details)

A Dog Called Money is released 22nd November 2019

A Dog Called Money– Official Website

 


  

 

Share

Review of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival 2019: Irish Shorts 1: Legacies

Caleb Cotter battles the rainy streets of Cork to find solace in shorts.

 

Before seeing Legacies, my second screening and the first set of Irish shorts to be shown at the Cork Film Festival, I had spent three hours in a café trying to drown out my disappointment of a different film in hot chocolate. As I ran through the rainy streets towards the cinema and took my seat at the edge of a row in a packed room one thought kept repeating in my mind: please let one of these films be great. Just one film to blow me away, to captivate me, that’s all I want. By the short film reel’s end, I was astonished; somehow they were all great.

Every one of the six films played throughout Irish Shorts 1: Legacies was either charming, heart-wrenching or some strange mixture of the two. As the title might suggest, all of the primarily female-led movies told tales dealing with love, loss, grief, life and death, carrying the themes across in a simple and nuanced manner and a heavy dose of humour. The showcase was a thrilling experience back to back, as every film had its own take on the themes and style that made each of them stand out amongst the rest while also somehow feeling intrinsically Irish.

Right off the bat, we were presented with Amy Corrigan’s Bound, depicting Rosie, gathering all her strength in order to save her son’s soul in 1940s Ireland. The pale and dark colours of the film perfectly present the sorrow and loss the young mother is going through in a dream-like manner, while the beautiful cinematography isolates her throughout the entirety film. This is particularly evident in the scenes when Rosie talks to her husband and a priest;  her loneliness in these scenes making it all the harder to do what needs to be done. However, it is Amy Molloy’s powerful performance as Rosie that carries the film, perfectly conveying both the heartache and determination of the young mother and her speech to her son as she completes the task in the dead of night is heartbreaking, leading to a melancholic and beautiful ending.

The next two films would build on the emotions and themes built by Bound and set the tone for the rest of the showcase. Sinéad O’Loughlin’s Stray, about a struggling elderly woman dealing with a violent break-in that left her without her husband, and Stuart Douglas’ Cúl an Tí, in which a dying guilt-ridden mother is brought reconciliation with her estranged daughter, were equally as powerful and riveting as each other, both taking things slow and allowing us to get to know the characters, allowing for their heartbreak to become ours. However, this is where the shorts began introducing humour into the mix, Stray with a dry wit and an almost surreal quality I still can’t exactly place and Cúl an Tí with the shocking yet undisputedly sad comments by the hard-as-nails, dying woman.

With this humour introduced, the way was paved for the film that garnered the biggest laughs from the audience, Michael Creagh’s Ruby. When the eccentric, bumbling Len gives an unusual and off-putting gift to his somewhat stuck-up wife, Ruby, on their ruby anniversary, we were met with a wonderful, memorable and charming experience. Dan Gordon (Len) and Kate O’Toole (Ruby) give excellent performances as the bickering couple of opposites and bounce off each other perfectly with the clever, witty dialogue and its many twists and turns. However, the film does not miss the chance to be endearing when it comes to the emotional moments of the film, slowing down just enough for us to feel the weight of the couple’s long-standing relationship, as well as the strength keeping them together. Yet what was most surprising about the film was its style, with a beautiful use of cinematography, editing and colour to traverse from the couple’s conversations to their memories of the past. Overall, the film is extremely poignant and charming and it is sure to stick in the memory. 

This leaves us with the final two films of Legacies, Pat, directed by Emma Wall, and Peggy and the Grim by Luke Morgan. Set in 1978, Pat follows the titular music-loving old woman whose only connection with her son in New York is the one phone box in her village. The film bounces from fun and energetic to slow and emotional with astounding ease and the soundtrack of groovy classic rock and roll ballads, along with Pat’s dancing, give the film a real charm. The film is impressively carried by the performances of Rosaline Linehan as Pat and Moe Dunford as her son Conn, who are able to portray the closeness of the mother and son’s relationship despite only speaking to each other through a phone. Meanwhile, Peggy and the Grim ended the reel with a delightfully charming tale of Peggy getting a visit from the Grim Reaper. With a surprising level of wit and light-heartedness, the film leaves one delighted with its fantastic editing, music and cinematography, all done with a delightful simplicity and its final shot gave a perfect and endearing end to Legacies

Overall, Legacies proved to be a fantastic experience that had a wonderful blend of charm, wit, heartbreak and simplicity to carry across very powerful and universal themes, all the while with a distinctly Irish feel. 

 

The Irish Shorts 1:  Legacies programme screened on Sat, 9th Nov 2019  as part of the Cork Film Festival (7 – 17 November 2019).

Share

Review of Irish Film @ Cork Film Festival 2019: The Cave

 

Loretta Goff was at the Cork Film Festival to watch The Cave, Irish filmmaker Tom Waller’s recreation of the dramatic cave rescue which successfully extricated members of a junior football team trapped in Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand.

 

The Cave tells the story of the international rescue mission of the young Wild Boars soccer team, who were trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand for 18 days in June/July of 2018. Twelve boys, aged 11 to 16 were trapped about 4 km in to the cave with their 25-year-old coach after it became flooded, resulting in a rescue operation that was the first of its kind and was widely publicised across the world.

Irish-Thai Writer-Producer-Director Tom Waller, was quick to act on the story after his interest was piqued by the involvement of County Clare cave diver Jim Warny, which allowed him to focus on not only an Irish connection to the event, but the contributions of several everyday heroes who were involved in the rescue.

In keeping with his focus on the many individuals who contributed selflessly to the rescue, Waller cast several of the real participants as themselves in the film, including Warny. These individuals are placed alongside actors, in a similar vein to Clint Eastwood’s The 15:17 to Paris (2018). This results in some stilted and unclear moments throughout the film, but it does provide a spotlight for those who were actually involved in the event. Warny’s involvement begins about a third of the way through the film, allowing Waller to jump between Ireland and Thailand, and show the events unfolding from an international perspective.

In addition to the blended cast, the film itself feels like a mix between documentary-style and Hollywood action-style thriller, which doesn’t quite work. It is generally fast-paced, and cuts between several international locations, particularly at the start. This does add a sense of urgency to the rescue operation, but it also makes the narrative feel a bit scattered and underdeveloped in places. On the other hand, there are some moments that are perhaps given too much time, or returned to repeatedly, such as the difficulty bringing in the best water pumps. Though this is an important part of the narrative, its pacing in comparison to the rest of the film felt a bit drawn out.

Ultimately, the film’s pacing and style let it down. It would perhaps have been stronger had it leant more into the vérité style it pursues in places. However, it does achieve what it sets out to do in the sense of highlighting the selfless acts of countless individuals involved in the rescue mission and telling the story from a different perspective. Equally, Waller does a good job reconstructing the event, capturing the scale of the base of operations outside the cave where the rescue operation is planned across several teams, with thousands of individuals taking part. Waller creates an atmosphere of chaos, urgency and exhaustion here that is well-contrasted with the dark and isolated atmosphere inside the cave. 

The film had its Irish premiere at the 64th Cork Film Festival. A large audience was in attendance, along with Waller and Warny, who participated in a Q&A after the screening. Warny, who received a standing ovation, spoke of his involvement in the film and the development of its narrative from conception. He noted his trust in Waller to tell the story accurately and said his own  “aim [was to] show what it felt like” at the cave, reflecting the visceral experience for the viewer—thrown in amongst the rescuers. Waller, meanwhile, noted that one of the big challenges of making the film was “to make it suspenseful when you know the outcome”, because the rescue had been so well-publicised. Discussing the quick turn-around time of the production, which was shot mostly at the end of 2018, quite soon after the actual events, Waller explained that he had to be quick to get the rights to the story and get his unique version out there. Indeed, he noted that the rights to the kids’ story was given to Netflix, who are producing a series on it, meaning that the film that he made can’t be done again, further marking its uniqueness.

 

The Cave screened on Sat, 9th Nov @ the 2019 Cork Film Festival (7 – 17 November).

 

Share

Irish Film Review: ‘Calm with Horses’ @ Toronto International Film Festival 2019 

 

Aoife O’Neill was at the Toronto International Film Festival 2019 and sent us on this review of Nick Rowland’s Calm with Horses.

 

One of a few Irish films that closed Toronto International Film Festival this year is that of Nick Rowland’s Calm with Horses; a film that was adapted by Joe Murtagh from Colin Barrett’s acclaimed collection of short stories. Calm with Horses premiered at the festival alongside an Irish Canadian co-production starring Dakota Fanning called Sweetness in the Belly, (also a book adaptation from Camilla Gibb’s book of the same name), as well as Neasa Hardiman’s film Sea Fever. It is clear that Ireland was definitely represented on the big screen in Toronto this year.

Calm with Horses tells the story of Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong, an ex-boxer, who has been adopted into the deadly Devers family. Used as a muscle man, particularly by Daimhin Devers (Barry Keoghan), he is treated like a lap dog doing the violent bidding for the family and he is also kept on a very short leash. At the centre of the film is the struggle of Arm and where his loyalty lies. Is he loyal to the adopted family that ‘protects’ him or to his actual family that he must protect? At first, the audience is led to believe that Arm should be hated and is a violent thug at heart, but then, as the story unfolds, we see the person behind the brutally-violent actions.

The catalyst of this thriller-crime drama is when Arm must choose to either kill a man for the Devers or provide money for the education of his five year-old autistic son, Jack. The viewer is thrown into the action of the film almost immediately, only discovering the motives behind the actions of the characters as the story reveals itself. The brutality and unyielding wrath of the Dever family illustrates clearly, the fact, that they will stop at nothing to maintain their power in the community, even at the expense of Arm.

Violent from the get go, this film is not for the faint-hearted. After seeing this film with a Canadian audience, it was almost amusing to hear the loud gasps and shock from audience members at the most violent scenes. Not that the violence is amusing but, Canadian audiences, I have found, are very vocal when watching films in the cinema.

With a similar vibe of RTÉ’s Love/Hate, Irish viewers, I think, will enjoy this thriller. Set in  rural Ireland, Calm with Horses puts a spin on the gangland drama usually set in Irish cities. Trained eyes may recognise some of the backdrop of the Irish countryside throughout the drama (filmed in both Galway and Clare).

The slow pace of the film reflects the lifestyle of the characters and the community they inhabit; their simple survival for money and opportunity while wanting a better life. The depiction of rural Irish life is true to form, where the community knows or think they know everything about you. The isolation and judgement one feels is shown particularly well as it affects the character of Ursula, in her desire to escape the judgemental town they live in. Ursula is condemned by the community as they accuse her of giving her son Jack his medical condition.

Despite the brutal violence in the film, the story is juxtaposed with moments of calm as the title suggests. As Arm tries to bond with his son, Jack, it is clear that he has not grasped the concept of Jack’s medical condition and diagnosis, unlike Jack’s mother, Ursula. Played by Niamh Algar, Ursula provides the voice of reason to Arm, trying to release the grasp the Dever family have over him.

Headed by a heavy Irish cast including outstanding performances from Barry Keoghan and Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders), as well as American born actor Cosmo Javis (Lady Macbeth) taking the lead role of Arm in the film. Calm with Horses is from the DMC Film production company. The production company, founded by Michael Fassbender and Conor McCaughan, and producer Daniel Emmerson developed the project with Film4 as Nick Rowland’s feature directorial debut.

Most importantly, it was nice to have the opportunity to watch an Irish film in Toronto on the big screen being so far from home. After supporting many different world cinemas throughout the festival, such as Latin America, Spain, France, Japan, India and Africa to name but a few, it was fantastic to get to experience this film with a very packed Canadian audience excited to see Ireland represented on screen.

 

Calm with Horses had its world premiere 8th September 2019 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

‎The Toronto International Film Festival 2019 took place 5–15 September 2019.

Share

Irish Film Review: Dark Lies the Island

DIR: Ian Fitzgibbon • WRI: Kevin Barry • DOP: Cathal Watters • ED: Stephen O’Connell • DES: Jeff Sherriff • PRO: Michael Garland • MUS: Stephen Rennicks • CAST: Peter Coonan, Moe Dunford, Charlie Murphy, Pat Shortt, Jana Moheiden

Dark Lies the Island is about a doomed love-rectangle in a small Irish town. Daddy Mannion (Pat Shortt) has the run of the place in Dromord. Every other business in town is a Mannion enterprise. But as his two sons (Moe Dunford and Peter Coonan) become jealous of his money and young wife Sara (Charlie Murphy), can the Mannions escape with their dignity intact? Inspired by characters from Kevin Barry’s short-story collection by the same name, Dark Lies the Island is a film about desperation and loneliness in a town that has a hold over all the characters.

Daddy Mannion may be the success of the town, but his personal life leaves much to be desired. His wife Sara, twenty years his junior, is bored sick at home with an atypical teenage daughter, played brilliantly by Jana Moheiden. Sara will do anything to punish Daddy for keeping her trapped in Dromord. To make matters worse, Daddy has two grown sons from his first marriage: failed businessman, Martin (Moe Dunford) and a recluse who runs shady businesses from his shack in the woods, Doggie (Peter Coonan). 

Most of the characters are desperate to get out of Dromord but do nothing to leave. Circumstances like debt, marriage, family business or agoraphobia keep people there, drive people to madness, and send them to the bottom of the lake. The irony of Doggie’s situation is highlighted when he says “I can leave whenever I want” but hasn’t set foot outside his shack in years. The feeling of being trapped is emphasised by cinematographer Cathal Watters, as he frames the characters in lots of close-ups, contrasting the expansive scenery outside. 

Something magical hangs over the film, as though Dromord has abstained from the rules of reality. The whole 90-minutes you’re waiting for the worst to happen to the Mannions, but you feel like absolutely anything could happen. The score by Stephen Rennicks (Room, Frank) enhances the mood – dark and playful at the same time, balancing light and dark.

I really wanted to like it more than I did. I’m a big Kevin Barry fan, so I was interested in seeing how Fitzgibbon would manage it. Barry has such a distinctive style that sadly didn’t translate to the screen. The magic of Kevin Barry is he puts you in someone’s head and makes you believe you’re there. But in the film, the focus shifts between so many different characters that it feels like a diluted version of his work. Barry perfectly balances humour and darkness in his short stories, and I’m not sure anyone can do him justice. 

With solid performances and gorgeous cinematography, it’s a shame the film doesn’t live up to the book. Barry’s tone is a hard one to pin down so I think audiences might have a hard time knowing how to feel. 

Aoife O’Ceallachain

87′ 

Dark Lies the Island  is released 18th October 2019

Share