Review: Ordinary Love

DIR: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn • WRI: Owen McCafferty • DOP: Piers McGrail • ED: Nick Emerson • DES: Nigel Pollock • PRO: David Holmes, Piers Tempest • MUS: David Holmes, Brian Irvine • CAST: Liam Neeson, Lesley Manville, David Wilmot 

Married for over 30 years, Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are enjoying their life together – going on walks by the sea to stay fit and bickering at the shops. But when Joan finds a lump in her breast, the couple have to decide how to manage her diagnosis and move forward. The film examines the quiet perseverance and strength of normal people in extraordinary circumstances. 

Ordinary Love shows every stage of diagnosis, from finding a lump, to receiving a hospital appointment, mammogram, biopsy and upper body scan. I think this will be of a huge comfort to people in years to come. Whether it’s someone close to you or a friend of a friend, breast cancer affects a staggering number of people (1 in 9 according to Breast Cancer Ireland) and having this film as a starting point will serve people well. Choosing to show every part of the diagnosis is authentic and important. It’s worth noting that McCafferty drew inspiration from a personal place, as his wife survived breast cancer treatment.

While undergoing treatment, Joan begins to come out of her shell and talk to other patients. Bringing in minor characters this way is a masterful move by scriptwriter Owen McCafferty, as these moments change Joan’s perspective and present different experiences of chemo and cancer.

It’s great to see a story purely focused on a middle-aged couple on the big screen for a change. Lesley Manville, of Phantom Thread fame, is phenomenal and carries the role with charm and ease. Neeson is fantastic as the supportive husband, his normal accent adding a level of authenticity to the role. 

Cinematographer Piers McGrail constructs careful shots that catch your eye and bring beauty to everyday moments. His shot composition draws attention to difficult moments for the characters. You see the characters deal with these huge concepts of life and death while still managing to get on with the weekly shop. 

You’ll come out of the cinema with a new sense of how to live. You’ll remember to enjoy the little things: the cup of coffee with a friend, petty arguments, the walk beside the sea. Life is made up of so many of these moments you can enjoy if you decide to. Ordinary Love serves as a reminder to keep living, laughing and enjoying human connection. Co-directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn have created a film that’ll last a lifetime, and any film that encourages people to check for lumps is good in my book.

Aoife O’Ceallachain

92′ 8″
12A (see IFCO for details)

Ordinary Love is released 6th December 2019

Ordinary Love – Official Website

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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).

 

 

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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

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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: 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: Lady Bird

DIR/WRI: Greta Gerwig  • PRO: Eli Bush, Evelyn O’Neill, Scott Rudin  DOP: Sam Levy • ED: Nick Houy • MUS: Jon Brion • DES: Chris Jones • CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush, Kathryn Newton

 

“Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.” – Joan Didion. This is the opening frame of Lady Bird and sets the tone of teenage angst and cynicism for an adult audience. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird is a touching coming-of-age drama loosely based on Gerwig’s own experiences of growing up. Set in Sacramento in 2002, Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson is a kooky, outspoken senior at Immaculate Heart High School. As the name suggests, it’s a Catholic school. Fortunately, Gerwig takes the moral high ground and doesn’t represent the Catholic school maliciously. Having said this, Lady Bird and her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) do snack on un-consecrated communion wafers. Lady Bird is a relatable character – she wants to be part of something, do something, move to New Hampshire to write in the woods. As long as it isn’t in her home town.

The crux of the film lies in the relationship between mother and daughter, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, an actress known for her roles in television (Roseanne, The Big Bang Theory, Desperate Housewives). Lady Bird’s mother, Marion, has a complicated relationship with her daughter, leading to public arguments and Lady Bird throwing herself from a moving car. For both characters, winning a fight is shown to be the most important thing they’ll ever have to do, but so insignificant as to be completely forgotten when they find a pretty dress. Interactions like this one are a microcosm of adolescence. At that time, there is nothing more important, and you believe nothing ever will be. The film has a magical ability to make you laugh and break your heart at the same time.

Gerwig’s directorial debut welcomes you into a Sacramento adolescence that makes you cringe and laugh out loud. Saoirse Ronan is perfectly cast as the angsty teenager, complete with acne (shout out to the make-up department) and dyed red hair. It’s great to see a teenage character with acne for once. The score is composed by Jon Brion (Magnolia) with soft acoustic guitar and lilting flutes, reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine. The way the shots are composed is distinguished, the set design is gorgeous (wait until you see her bedroom). The film is like a love letter to her home town, Lady Bird, perhaps Gerwig too, hates Sacramento but loves it all the same.

It’s nice to see high energy in Ronan for a change, to contrast her controlled characters in Brooklyn, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. She can finally let loose in this role. I do worry Ronan won’t get the Oscar. Her performance is flawless, but there isn’t an ‘Oscar moment’ – that one scene where the actor gets to deliver a powerful, teary-eyed monologue. A coming of age film for grown-ups, I recommend Lady Bird wholeheartedly.

Aoife O’Ceallachain

15A (See IFCO for details)

94 minutes
Lady Bird is released 23rd February 2018

Lady Bird– Official Website

 

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Review: Pitch Perfect 3

DIR: Trish Sie  WRI: Kay Cannon, Mike White  PRO: Elizabeth Banks, Paul Brooks, Max Handelman  DOP: Matthew Clark ED: Steve Edwards, Mark Helfrich • MUS: Christopher Lennertz • DES: Toby Corbett • CAST: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, Ruby Rose, John Lithgow

 

The first Pitch Perfect made me cry. The sequel brought a tear to my eye. This one is just sad.

Having graduated college and realising the real world isn’t what they were expecting, the Barden Bellas decide to reunite and join the USO to sing for American troops around Europe. For the first time, the Bellas are up against musicians who play instruments and perform original songs. Although not technically a competition, at the end of the tour DJ Khaled will choose one group to be his opening act.

It all feels very American. I had to go home and Google what the USO is (a non-profit organisation that provides live entertainment for members of the United States Armed Forces and their families). It’s alienating for any non-Americans watching, and takes the viewer out of the diegesis, making us consider why the troops are in these countries, and what message it sends to younger viewers.

There are plot holes and not enough songs. The trailer sets up a rivalry with Ruby Rose-led girl-band Evermoist (hold for laughter) but their rivalry only lasts two songs. Two of the leads have plots entirely based on daddy issues, which makes a nice change from the first Pitch Perfect, when only Anna Kendrick had daddy issues. They try very hard to give one-dimensional characters something to do, but they fall flat.

Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins are as funny as ever, and their obvious narration feels taken right out of the storyboard meeting: “They really do need to join the work force”. It did make me laugh, but they weren’t enough to save this sinking ship. As a fan of the original, I was let down. Hopefully that’ll be the end of the series.

Aca-trocious

Aoife O’Ceallachain 

12A (See IFCO for details)

93 minutes
Pitch Perfect 3 is released 22nd December 2017

Pitch Perfect 3 – Official Website

 

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Review: Happy End

DIR: Michael Haneke  WRI: Simon Beaufoy  PRO: Margaret Ménégoz  DOP: Christian Berger • Ed: Monika Willi  CAST: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant,Mathieu Kassovitz

Happy End is about the Laurent family, living their bourgeois lives in Calais, ignorant to the migrant crisis going on outside the walls of their land. It’s as if Haneke took all the characters that didn’t make it into his other films, stitched them into a family et voilà, a film was born! Haneke places the migrant crisis so far in the background you’d need a magnifying glass to find it. The astute viewer understands what he’s saying: we have become so numb to the migrant crisis, we need not mention it at all. But it left me jaded. If the second line of a blurb mentions migrants, you better make sure this is a film about migrants. Don’t give me two scenes where black extras are brought in, where they’re denied dialogue. But this is a white film, full of white people, about white people. Are we complicit in ignoring the migrant crisis? Yes. Is the film dissecting our complicity? Yes. Does it make it a good film? No.

Referencing immigration in the second line of a summary can also be explained by the lack of plot holding the film together. Eve, a twelve-year-old who keeps saying she’s thirteen, goes to live with her father and his new family after her mother is either poisoned by Eve, or tried to kill herself. The narrative dips in and out of different characters in the same family, working on contracts, trying to kill themselves, cheating on their spouses over Facebook.

Haneke remains cold in his view of technology, how smartphones and Facebook are so impersonal it makes the user distant…. Intimacy and coldness experienced at the same time in graphic Facebook sexting. The characters are so detached from each other, the viewer becomes detached too.

Scenes shot through a smartphone are the best ones in the film. A video of a baby in a crib as type is written real-time describing a dead sibling, a video of Eve poisoning a hamster with anti-depressants – disturbing at best. It’s a coming-of-age story, following a child dealing with the realisation her father is incapable of love. The temporally long shots give Haneke fans what they paid for, but you’re waiting for something that never happens.

They say you can’t look away from a car crash. Happy End is like that, except the car crash happens off screen.

Aoife O’Ceallachain

15A (See IFCO for details)

107 minutes
Happy End is released 1st December 2017

Happy End – Official Website

 

 

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