‘I didn’t… I wasn’t…I amn’t’ @ Manchester Film Festival

Laoisa Sexton short film I didn’t… I wasn’t…I amn’t has been selected for the Manchester Film Festival, screening on March 4 at 6pm.

Starring Aidan Gillen, Neili Conroy and  Laoisa Sexton, the film is a social realistic, dark blue un-romantic comedy set in Dublin. The film explores the social contract of human endeavour between men and women in the paradox of modern life, and the thirst for human connection as we follow one woman’s desire to attain it.

This is Laoisa’s debut film, which she wrote, directed and performs in. It was financed by a crowdfunding campaign, on a minuscule budget. The production took place over a period of five days in Dublin. The film was shot by Irish cinematographer Trevor Murphy.

The film is also set to screen at Dingle International Film Festival on March 23rd @ 7:30pm.

 

 

 

 

Share

Irish Film Review: You’re Ugly Too

b69d716626487222da706c2e0bfd7132

DIR/WRI: Mark Noonan • PRO: Conor Barry, John Keville, Benoit Roland  • DOP: Tom Comerford • ED: Colin Campbell • DES: Neill Treacy • MUS: David Geraghty • CAST: Aidan Gillen, Lauren Kinsella, Jesse Morris

 

Aidan Gillen stars as Will, a man released from prison to look after his young niece Stacey (Lauren Kinsella) after the death of her mother, Will’s sister. Escaping Dublin to a sleepy rural town, Will and Stacey attempt to foster a relationship and start afresh. However, they’re plagued by setbacks. Will struggles to find a job, Stacey’s more modern attitudes don’t mesh with Will’s old-fashioned nature and recently Stacey has developed narcolepsy in the wake of her mother’s death which ends up stopping her from being able to attend school. However, the duo befriend a neighbour Emilie (Sainte) who agrees to tutor Stacey while they work out the school issues. And so begins a quiet, subtle exploration of their attempt to build a family out of this less-than-ideal situation.

This is a decidedly mixed film. On balance it probably largely falls on the ‘good’ side of the line but how good kind of depends on who you view the protagonist as being. Initially, it seems like Will is the main player but Stacey gets just about as much screen time and development. Now this is obviously not a complaint but (for this viewer at least) it feels like the film pulls in two contradictory directions depending on who you feel you should be rooting for. Will seems to represent an outdated, idealised stereotype of Ireland. He’s a bit of a ‘rogue’, a real ‘character’, he endlessly spouts dad jokes and eye-rolling platitudes, which he clearly believes represent real wisdom. He seems constantly surprised and a little affronted by Stacey’s independence and generally more ‘modern’ views. This even extends into the narrative as, if you choose to look at it from a certain angle, the story can be summed as; old-fashioned, chivalrous man’s-man saves foreign beauty (Emilie) who falls for him. Now, ultimately the story proves to not be so clear cut but that element never really leaves and at no point do you feel like the film is necessarily against Will’s old fashioned expectations of the world. Indeed, a late reveal of why he was in prison in the first place only reinforces it.

This is all in contrast to Stacey, who it must said, is absolutely the best thing about the film. Kinsella’s performance is flawless. A subtle, quiet but strong and frequently humourous presence who absolutely carries the film. And as a character Stacey feels far more in line with ‘modern’ Ireland but again, it’s unclear if the film is trying to say that she should learn from Will or vice-versa. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s intentionally neither of those and the film is merely presenting both sides without comment and leaving it ambiguous. This kind of detached ambiguity is often a persistent issue with a lot of modern Irish cinema, here though it almost works even if ultimately it means that neither character grows particularly much from their experiences. At any rate it feels more believable and truthful than if this had become a droopy bag of shmaltz and clichés.

Otherwise, in terms of the Good; Tom Comerford’s cinematography is crisp and at times striking, managing that most difficult of tricks by making rural Ireland look neither like a picturesque tourist board commercial or a bleak, desolate wasteland. The supporting cast is strong and the dialogue can be very funny (Stacey’s at any rate) and while the score is sparse, what little of it there is is inoffensive even though it sounds like the music from an Apple product’s ad.

On to the Bad however…

Now, despite recent evidence (read: almost everything since The Wire), I’m still not willing outright to call Gillen a bad actor but he is not good here. As an actor he has a tendency of acting with a capital ‘A’. He doesn’t so much vanish into a role as wear it like a very overt costume. You can see him straining below his own veneer to show how good he is at being, in this case, a working-class Dub just out of prison. It really is quite bemusing to watch scenes of him and Kinsella having conversations, their polar opposite acting styles clashing as much as characters do. This brings us onto the other major issues, the dialogue. Now, while it can be good (as I said earlier, mainly Stacey’s) there is a clear attempt here at naturalism that quite often overshoots. Sometimes this ends up being a bit incongruous (Stacey nonchalantly asking ‘So what’s the story with you being a drug addict?’) but other times enters truly cringe-y, flatout bad territory. The attempt at stark realism despite the presence of slightly generic elements further reinforcing the weird non-tone the film seems to be going for. The problem, really, can be summed up in a single, almost dialogue-free scene of Will going to a local young-people’s party where he tries to sell them drugs and have a good time. It is a deeply weird scene, awkward to watch, serves no real point and is mercifully short. It’s difficult to articulate exactly why it feels so off but in motion it embodies all the film’s negatives.

This is by no means a bad film and there is definitely enough good to keep your interest. Lauren Kinsella can join the growing list of young Irish actors that show real promise and the unusual enough dynamic between the leads means that it’s never boring. But the missteps with both the writing and Gillen really are hard to ignore and lead to a very uneven experience on the whole.

Richard Drumm

 

15A (See IFCO for details)
80 minutes

You’re Ugly Too is released 24th July 2015

 

Share

Review: Still

Aiden Gillen in the film Still

 

DIR/Wri: Simon Blake • PRO: Colette Delaney-Smith, Zorana Piggott • DOP: Andy Parsons • ED: Agnieszka Liggett • MUS: Alex Grey • DES: Mayou Trikerioti • CAST: Aidan Gillen, Jonathan Slinger, Elodie Yung, Amanda Mealing, Sonny Green

 

Adapted from his own play Lazarus Man, screenwriter Simon Blake’s first full-length directorial feature Still merges portent social realism with menacing psychological thrills in this grim and affecting film. Set in a bleak North London milieu, the film explores the unprovoked and interminable harassment experienced by a grieving man at the hands of a sinister and truculent teen gang. Although not a critique on gang culture per se, this unpropitious portrait of gang violence at micro-level does reflect existing social trends of metropolitan gang crime at macro-level, creating an apocalyptic prognostication of social catastrophe at the mercy of paralysing gang cultures. Still encapsulates a radical shift in fear seeping through society; the increasing social threat embodied by armed hunters in hoodies who stalk and terrorize victims with new types of weapons for the contemporary age.

 

Photographer Tom Carver (Aiden Gillen) lost his son in a hit-and-run accident over a year ago. Unable to assimilate his grief and divorce with a nugatory photographic career, he turns to alcohol and drugs to obliterate his overwhelming torment. On his way back from the off-licence one night, he innocuously bumps into teen-gang leader, Carl (Sonny Green), initiating a chilling chain of events, which culminates in a horrifying decision for marked man Carver and presenting an opportunity for ultimate redemption and revenge.

 

Although it may appear ambiguous at times as to whether Still is a one-man character analysis on psychological trauma or a highly-stylised noirish thriller, it is nonetheless a grippingly immersive and socially valuable film, which is situated at the intersection of relevant socio-cultural and psycho-behavioural concerns. Blake’s spasmodic shift in the narrative’s trajectory from the exploration of personal loss and professional frustration to personal survival and vengeance via sadistic emotional torture by a young antagonist pushes the parameters of rationality to its upper limits, challenging and probing the audience with the boundaries of their own moral consciences.

 

Aidan Gillen is spellbinding as the man and father whose descent from self-pitying grief and abandonment into dehumanized, soulless aggression thrusts the narrative forwards at an emotionally electrifying rate. Gillen portrays Carver as a somewhat latter-day Hamlet; an essentially benevolent man who struggles to retain his sanity as he seeks to apprehend his bizarre, fragmented reality through grief and psychological hostility. Submerged in irrepressible chaos and entangled between bravado and self-abhorrence, Gillen pierces Carver’s fear, paranoia and failure with melancholy, bitterness and cynicism, making it difficult to ascertain who or what Carver predominantly grieves for; his son, a squandered photographic career or his sanity. That he loses a child whom he realises he never knew and that his artistic interpretations on the world have failed to ignite hold him up as the epitome of human failure, fuelling and blinding his motivation for retribution. Carver is as indecisive and hesitant as he is reckless and impulsive; characteristics that have severe consequences for those around him and his endurance of abject misery through sadistic threats and violence becomes the angst-driven catalyst he needs to either morally administer or repudiate revenge.

 

Still’s small-scale, low budget skilfully creates effectively high production values which alternate between bleak and dehydrated North London cityscapes and Carver’s flat, his own psychological graveyard; spaces that pulverize and devour any remnants of Carver’s lucidity. Blake expertly toys with pace which he aligns with Carver’s wavering mental state, scenes swinging between prolonged tension-fuelled stillness, evoking the grieving process and decent into alcoholism, to brittle and palpation-charged surges of the false highs of substance abuse and psychotic revenge. Appropriating a film noir style of the 1950s, low-key lighting and darkly lit scenes marry with blindingly lurid, neon hues of 1970s neo-noirs through an uncontrollable drug-fuelled psychosis, heightening Carver’s suffocation, claustrophobia and delusory elation. Rather than mimic the current vogue for fierce electro-pop in contemporary urban cinema, Blake revisits the evocative and moody jazzy soundtracks of noir, which reflect Carver’s many interchangeable moods and gives a more sadistically seductive feel to the narrative.

 

Still marks an impressive full-length directorial debut from Blake and frighteningly palpable turns from Aidan Gillen and Sonny Green. The fusion of film noir conventions with a portrait of a bereaved man’s descent into psychological disintegration and an inadvertent social commentary on gang youth culture should be slightly chaotic, misplaced and overambitious but it is rather a combination of these elements, set within a North London social realist context, that makes the film all the more disconcerting, and convincing; Carver in North London, could be anyone, anywhere, at anytime.

 

 

     Dee O’Donoghue

 

97 minutes

Still is released 14th May 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Share

‘You’re Ugly Too’ Nominated at Berlin

FRANCIS

Mark Noonan’s film You’re Ugly Too starring Aidan Gillen has been nominated for the Best First Feature Award at the Berlin International Film Festival next month, where the film will have its World Premiere.

The film stars Aidan Gillen as Will, who is released from prison on compassionate leave to care of his niece Stacey, after the death of her mother. An odd couple of sorts, they leave the city behind to pursue what they both hope will be a fresh start in the sleepy surroundings of the Irish midlands. The two bicker and fight as they adjust to their new life together and make tentative steps towards becoming an improvised family.

You’re Ugly Too will screen in the Generation Kplus category, which is aimed at children from the age of fourteen. 

You’re Ugly Too was produced by John Keville and Conor Barry for Savage Productions and was filmed in counties Dublin and Offaly

The 2015 Berlin International Film Festival takes place  5 – 15 February.

Share

Cinema Review: Calvary

0008859a-630

 

DIR/WRI: John Michael McDonagh  • PRO: Chris Clark, Flora Fernandez-Marengo, James Flynn • DOP: Larry Smith • ED: Chris Gill • MUS: Patrick Cassidy • DES: Mark Geraghty • CAST: Aidan Gillen, Brendan Gleeson, Kelly O’ Reilly, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Dylan Moran, Killian Scott

 

Village priest Father James Lavelle finds himself offered up as a sacrificial lamb when a victim of sexual abuse, now grown, decides that killing an innocent priest will send a better message than disposing of a guilty one. Granted seven days to “put his house in order”, Lavelle embarks on a stumbling Stations of the Cross through an unrepentant parish only too happy to parade their sins before him, and trade every attempted benediction for yet another barb.

John Michael McDonagh’s much-anticipated follow-up to first feature The Guard, Calvary certainly aims to shake audience expectations, evidenced scarcely five seconds into the opening scene when our faceless parishioner delivers his ultimatum.  However, while certainly sharing the biting humour and self-awareness of its predecessor, the irreverence here is aimed not so much towards tweaking the nose, as it is towards a close and often uncomfortable scrutiny of spirituality in the modern day.

What follows is a search for meaning that meanders between comedy and tragedy, anchored by Gleeson’s most compelling performance yet as a shepherd doomed to spend his (potentially) final days tending a flock of black sheep. A widower and former alcoholic, Lavelle was world-weary before he came to the cloth and finds himself growing increasingly frustrated as his attempts to offer comfort and guidance are consistently thrown back in his face by residents of an unnamed Sligo village that often seems McDonagh’s version of a small-town Sodom.

Filling out alongside Gleeson, McDonagh’s cast boasts a rogues’ gallery of Irish talent – Dylan Moran’s embittered banker, Killian Scott’s aspiring sociopath and Kelly O’ Reilly as Lavelle’s grown daughter – all worthy of particular note. Solid performances are tied together by a haunting score and enough gorgeous landscape shots to make any Fáilte Ireland employee weep shamrocks.

While the meandering script and a slightly cluttered cast contribute to a third act that begins to lose momentum, any doubts are quickly dismissed by a confident and compelling conclusion. The critic’s knee-jerk reaction to pan McDonagh’s sophomore effort as self-indulgent is ultimately stifled by the sense that a few bum notes do little to impact the overall piece, and that this notion of throwing the baby out with the bathwater is exactly the type of reductive cynicism that Calvary rails against.

If The Guard is a deconstruction of genre and our notion of “Oirishness”, Calvary is the follow-up that aims to strip away the cynicism that has become so embroiled in Irish spirituality simply to see what is left. Half-critique, half-homage but feeling all-organically Irish, Calvary will likely secure a place amongst one of Ireland’s most talked-about films  and, if nothing else, affords us yet another opportunity  to bow down in worship of the craggy island that is Mr. Gleeson’s well-worn visage. Hallelujah.

 

Ruairí Moore

15A (See IFCO for details)
100 mins

Calvary is released on 11th April 2014

Calvary– Official Website

Share

On The Reel on the Red Carpet at JDIFF Irish premiere of ‘Calvary’

Check out the video report from the Red Carpet at JDIFF’s Irish premiere of Calvary from our bestest buddies On The Reel in association with Film Ireland.

Lynn Larkin glammed up to meet the stars as they rocked into Dublin’s Savoy cinema for the Irish premiere of John Michael McDonagh’s new film, Calvary, which opened this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Lynn chats to the film’s star, Brendan Gleeson, about being a total legend, and director John Michael McDonagh about assembling such a great cast.

Lynn also gets the low-down on Gleeson from co-star Marie-Josée Croze, asks Dylan Moran about boozing and riding, and chats to Killian Scott and Aidan Gillen about their bromance.

And be sure to catch special guest John Hurt bust a move on the red carpet…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHM-0rTzs9E

Share

Cinema Review: Mister John

mister_john

DIR: Joe Lawlor, Christine Molloy  • PRO: Fran Borgia, Alec Christie, Joe Lawlor • DOP: Ole Bratt Birkeland • ED: Joe Lawlor, Christine Molloy • DES: Steven Blundell, Daniel Lim • Cast: Aidan Gillen, Claire Keelan, Zoe Tay, Michael Thomas

This noirish drama from Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor (aka Desperate Optimists) is a UK, Irish and Singaporean co-production, and a beautifully made, compelling film that will quietly and steadily possess you. The stunning visuals, shot on 35mm by Ole Birkeland (a collaborator on almost all Desperate Optimists’ films), music from Stephen McKeon and a slowly developing narrative combine to provide the Molloy and Lawlor signature characteristics of their debut feature Helen (2008) and their Civic Life series of short films (2004-2010). Mister John, however, takes these filmmakers from artist cinema into more accessible mainstream territory without compromising any of the quality or complexity that they have been known for.

An apparently simple narrative belies a multifaceted treatment of big, universal ideas. It involves a fish-out-of-water story where London businessman Gerry Devine (played by Aidan Gillen) travels to Singapore on the sudden death of his brother John, which comes at a crisis in his own relationship back home. The plot provides an opportunity for the protagonist to either deal with this turning point, or to avoid it entirely. In Singapore the bereaved wife, Kim (played by Zoe Tay), and her daughter, look to him for solace and even as a replacement – a theme that plays out through the repetition of a Chinese myth that a water spirit holds the drowned soul in the water until another arrives to replace him.

At the same time Gerry is plagued by memories of the rupture in his own relationship so that the assumption of the mantle of his dead brother (literally by wearing his clothes) provides him with an escape route from the turmoil his wife’s infidelity has caused. This idea of a divided self, and “the double” as a solution, becomes sexually charged through varied suggestions of enhanced virility and sexual freedom throughout the film. Gerry seems poised to take on his brother’s business, “Mister John’s” – a hostess bar that offers sex to its clientele and is now bereft of a man at the helm. Kim’s steady and gentle seduction goes beyond the sexual, however, by providing a parallel but opposite family to the one Gerry has left in London, and by suggesting the possibility of redemption and the restoration of his fractured masculinity. None of the narrative strands are overworked or very obvious, all are open to individual interpretation, which makes for a very satisfying viewing experience, one that stays with you even after the film itself has faded.

The performances are uniformly excellent, although Gillen has to stand out as having crafted a remarkable and finely tuned character study that allows as much to be unsaid as is overtly stated in the film. This combination of narrative, visual style and performances creates a richly layered work that is distinctly contemporary in tone, while at the same time suggesting age-old archetypal themes of ritual catharsis, symbolic rebirth and mythical doubling that provide a compelling and nuanced study of fluid identity in a shifting, globalised world. See it for its beautifully lush photography, the quality of its production values and its very modern reworking of eternal themes.

Eileen Leahy

15A (See IFCO for details)

95 mins
Mister John is released on 27th September 2013

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chzFHPSf_3o

Share

Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh preview: Mister John

mister_john

The 25th Galway Film Fleadh (9 – 14 July, 2013)

Mister John

Thursday, 11th July

Town Hall Theatre

19.00

Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, The Dark Knight Rises) stars in Mister John, a story of belonging, loss and identity set in South East Asia. Directed by Irish husband-and-wife team, Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy, the couple build on a stimulating body of work with this, their new feature set to screen at the 25th Galway Film Fleadh.

Christine Molloy told Film Ireland, ‘We are delighted that the Irish premiere of Mister John will take place at the Galway Film Fleadh. This is our first visit to the festival and we are very much looking forward to presenting our new film to an Irish audience as part of the 25th Film Fleadh’.

Dealing with his wife’s infidelity and the loss of his brother, Gerry Devine (Aidan Gillen) travels to Singapore to discover the exotic life his brother had built for himself out there. He visits his brother’s bar, Mister John’s, and meets his brother’s widow. Discovering a foreign land of opportunity, will Gerry return home to his troubled life with his wife and daughter, or will he stay and slip into his brother’s persona?

Tickets are available to book from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569777 or at www.tht.ie.

Share