Review: In the Heart of the Sea

 

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DIR: Ron Howard • WRI: Charles Leavitt • PRO: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Joe Roth, Will Ward, Paula Weinstein • DOP: Anthony Dod Mantle • ED: Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill • MUS: Roque Baños • CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Brendan Gleeson, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Benjamin Walker, Ben Whishaw

 

In the Heart of the Sea is a film that longs to be a sweeping epic. Unfortunately, it rarely struggles above ‘meh’ on the emotional reaction scale. Flitting from one narrative arc to another without ever divulging anything important or meaningful to the audience, the film flounders under the weight of its own scale. Even Ron Howard’s skill as a director fails to lend any depth to this shallow puddle of a film.

That said, it’s easy to see why Howard wanted to make this film. Maritime films are a rarity in Hollywood namely due to their enormous production costs (indeed, this film had a budget of 100 million dollars and it looks unlikely that it will be recuperated in the box office). Being in an aquatic environment, however, really allows for a directors creativity to shine through. There are some genuinely fantastic shots throughout the film, particularly the ones that take place underwater. The films biggest drawback by far is its script. The plot follows a frame narrative, wherein author Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw), anxious to start the novel that would become the classic Moby Dick, interviews the only surviving member of an infamous whale-hunting expedition, Tom Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson).

Now an aging drunk, Nickerson is at first reluctant to recall the horrors that occurred during the voyage.  Urged on by Melville’s deep (or, at least, slightly deeper) pockets, our story begins to unfold. Having risen from a lowly orphan to a respected seaman, Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself as First Mate on the Essex, a whaling ship captained by the rather pompous George Pollard (Benjamin Walker). Under pressure from their sponsoring merchant company to bring home as many barrels of whale oil as possible, the crew sets sail with then 14-year-old Nickerson (Tom Holland) aboard. Things go from bad to worse when, spurred on by over-fishing, the Essex travels into dangerous uncharted waters with the hope of snaring more whales. Once there, however, the ship is capsized by a gigantic white whale and our heroes find themselves adrift in an unforgiving wasteland of salt water.

There are so many elements to the plot- man v nature, fear of the unknown, exploitation of natural resources for profit, facing one’s past, etc.- that no single aspect is ever satisfactorily explored. The audience is never given enough to fully care and, as a result, characters are reduced down to ‘tick-the-box’ personalities.

The gruff-but-good-natured-leader-who-just-wants-to-do-right? Check!

The inexperienced-but-willing-to-learn-youngster-who-looks-upon-said-leader-as-a-mentor? Check!

The snooty-rich-guy-who-used-his-family-name-to-gain-his-position-for-which-he-is-completely-unqualified? Check!

The most interesting character by far is the white whale, who is apparently omniscient, and he doesn’t get nearly enough screen time. Also, while the film overall boasts bold visuals, certain wide shots of the ship at sea look hopelessly CGI’d and I’m certain that at one point the tip of a boom mike was visible in frame. With so many balls up in the air it’s unsurprising that the film ultimately falls rather flat. At the very least one can appreciate that a lot of effort went into the making of In the Heart of the Sea, but that alone cannot save it from being a mere drop in the ocean instead of an epic tidal wave.

 

Ellen Murray

12A
121 minutes (See IFCO for details)

In the Heart of the Sea is released 26th December 2015

In the Heart of the Sea – Official Website

 

 

 

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Review: Suffragette

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DIR: Sarah Gavron • WRI: Abi Morgan • PRO: Alison Owen, Faye Ward • DOP: Eduard Grau • ED: Barney Pilling • MUS: Alexandre Desplat • DES: Alice Normington • CAST: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep, Anne-Marie Duff, Brendan Gleeson

 

The distinct lack of films depicting the Suffragette movement in cinema since the silent era is unsurprising. Despite a host of documentaries and television movies exploring one of the most pivotal events in women’s history, cinema has predominantly shied away from the subject, possibly under the (mis) conception that suffrage is now irrelevant and contemporary audiences are better placed aligning their sympathies with more pertinent, identifiable social struggles. While most of the silent era films have been lost, those that survive delineate a collective portrait of aggressive, defeminized termagants, whose abandonment of traditional gender roles created havoc within existing social structures, allowing cinema to engage in negative propaganda and persistent stereotypes.

Sarah Gavron’s ambitious interpretation on British women’s suffrage follows its foot soldiers highly-charged campaign for social change in London, circa 2012. Penned by The Iron Lady writer, Abi Morgan, Suffragette, originally entitled The Fury, makes no apologies for its categorical feminist perspective, honouring the forgotten working-class women who fought to secure the right to vote and stand in political elections. Carey Mulligan stars as working-class washerwoman, Maud Watts, who is persuaded to join the movement, despite disapproval from her loving husband and lascivious boss. Under the encouragement of local pharmacist and seasoned activist, Edith (Helena Bonham Carter), downtrodden cockney, Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) and the watchful leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) Maud finds herself engaged in a flurry of violent, illegal activity to increase media publicity for the cause. Soon her defiant activism compromises her family and job and with the guileful police inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson) determined to derail her efforts, Maud is forced to choose between her old, subordinated life or continue the bloody fight for emancipation.

A compelling and propulsive no-holds-barred interpretation, Suffragette does not shy away from accentuating the extreme subversive tactics employed by the bastions of the women’s movement in the face of frenzied, brutal opposition. Delving into the psyche and spirit of the era through a bold cinematic vision, Gavron pumps a thumping rush of furious energy into the inflammable, character-driven narrative, which steamrolls along at a ferocious pace, creating a palpable, nervous edginess, which perfectly executes the pervading social unrest of the era. Captured through a highly subjective, restless feminist lens, with many of the action sequences shot in media res, the camera belligerently probes and taunts to heighten the claustrophobic milieu of a disordered society on the brink of immense social change.

Determined to redress the balance of stereotype and negative connotations aligned with suffragette identity, Gavron welcomes a heady mix of heterogeneous characters that broadly traverse the social spectrum, ranging from impoverished skivvies to grand privileged dames, with specific emphasis on working-class women. Granting her leading ladies their own weighty biography, which stands in opposition to the commonly assumed portrait of masculine, subversive harridans or well-to-do socialites, Gavron succeeds in making visible and humanizing the unknown combatants who have been long forgotten or erased by history. Carey Mullingan, at the helm of the action, plays the reluctant activist with an understated but deeply intense emotional power, her face, persistently framed in confined close-ups, etched with invisible scars from years of oppression, abuse and interminable struggle.

Although Maud’s dissatisfaction with her lot propels her to action rather than any informed political leanings, aligning her more with the affluent socialites of the time who turned to the cause to out of boredom rather than socio-political motivation, it is her transformation, from a politically ignorant subordinate to an enlightened, mettlesome mutineer that reinforces the film’s core message. Maud’s political education and her awareness to the failings of the law, align the movement’s insurgent tactics to its political ambitions, rooting a more tangible comprehension of its history for contemporary audiences. By merging the political with the personal through an accessible narrative, Gavron reaches the nucleus of its ideology, redressing the manipulation of suffrage identity and situating Maud and her cohorts as more representative of the collective rather than the unfeminine disputants in over-sized hats, so often assumed.

While Maud’s characterisation succeeds in making visible diverse identities across the class divide, Gavron fails to delineate a balanced perspective on the movement in its entirety. Ethnic minorities, such as Indian women were particularly active in British suffrage and in light of the film’s overly feminist perspective, it loses some narrative weight by advocating an exclusively white agenda, which somewhat reinforces the stereotype she is fervently trying to avoid. Also noteworthy is the lack of attention to women that subscribed to an anti-suffrage ideology, largely on the basis of sexual difference but it is the director’s incendiary polemic on her male characters that is most questionable, which she appears to view with feminist revisionism rather than suffragist revisionism, two distinctly disparate political ideologies. The women in the film may be angry but Gavron is furious. While the inhumane treatment and sexual humiliation experienced by the suffragettes is represented with immense emotional power, Gavron explicitly indulges in masculine stereotypes, pejoratively promoting an anti-male perspective, her all too few sympathetic male characters withdrawing support once it impinges on domestic life. Male supporters who championed the movement are also disregarded, particularly those equally subjected to discriminatory laws by failing to meet specific property requirements. To Gavron, suffrage in Britain was an elite white, female club only.

The strength of Suffragette lies in its compelling portrait of British working-class women, which roots the political to the personal through an engaging narrative, impressive production values and superb performances, allowing contemporary audiences to easily identify with a more coherent suffragette ideology, not previously seen in cinema. The promotion of an overly subjective, feminist narrative detracts, at times, from the perspicuous portrait of working-class women and it is a shame that Gavron’s over-magnification of Maud’s narrative does not locate it within a wider social context nor take into account the active participation of other social groups and political supporters.

Despite such narrative oversights, Suffragette’s supreme message is unequivocal, quashing the notion that suffrage is irrelevant (a detailed list of the countries who have attained and still seeking suffrage accompanies the closing titles) and the fight for emancipation is far from over.

   Dee O’Donoghue

12A (see IFCO for details)

106 minutes

Suffragette is released 16th October 2015

Suffragette –  Official Website

 

 

 

 


 

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Irish Film Review: Song of the Sea

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DIR: Tomm Moore • WRI: Will Collins, Tomm Moore • PRO: Claus Toksvig Kjaer, Tomm Moore, Paul Young • ED: Darragh Byrne • MUS: Bruno Coulais • CAST: Brendan Gleeson, Lisa Hannigan, Fionnula Flanagan, David Rawle, Lucy O’Connell

 

Acclaimed Irish filmmaker and illustrator Tomm Moore follows up his first Oscar-nominated feature, medieval fantasy quest The Secret of Kells (2009) with another mythological and magical tale of venture steeped in legend and lore in his second consecutive nominated film, Song of the Sea. Inspired by the mysterious, fabled selkie creatures, who inhabit the land as humans but transform into seals at sea, Moore’s timeless tale, nostalgically delineated in hand-drawn, 2D animation, melds the mystical of yesteryear with a specific time in contemporary Irish culture to create a heartfelt story of origins, home and identity that will resonate with audiences of all ages.

 

Ben lives with his little sister Saoirse and father Conor in a lighthouse off the Irish coast. Their selkie mother returned to the sea six years previously, leaving Ben devastated and his father unable to cope. Troubled Ben grows increasingly resentful of mute Saoirse, who appears to embody the selkie tales told to him by his mother and whom he blames for her abrupt departure. When Saoirse discovers a white sealskin coat she is called to the sea and it is revealed that, she too, is a selkie and swims with the seals until she is washed up ashore, prompting Granny to take the children to the city for their own safety. Yearning to return home, they run away and in their adventurous quest, they encounter a host of mythical characters inhabiting a lost and forgotten world, who either help or hinder their challenging venture to see them safely back to the island.

 

Set in the 1980s and voiced by an all-star Irish cast, including Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, Lisa Hannigan and Pat Shortt, Song of the Sea is a retrospective celebration of an Irish culture and identity that no longer appears visible in the nation’s ever-changing cultural landscape. Rooted in a particular space and time, depicted through its recognisable pre-Celtic Tiger iconography, unobtrusive Irish symbolism and colloquial expression, the film is a romantic and wistful portrait of a defunct past that evokes a particular cultural mood and serves as a welcoming breath of fresh air in a genre that is wholly engaged with a hyper-sophisticated, CGI platform. The film’s revisionist perspective elicits a deep emotional resonance to a specific cultural identity while also challenging the art of contemporary animation through its bewitching use of a traditional and predominantly redundant means of animation filmmaking. Moore’s hand-drawn, water-coloured aesthetic executes a craftsmanship that stimulates an intimacy, charm and melancholic beauty and which sits in complete opposition to its successor’s craft, so that each frame stands alone as a conventional laboured work of artistry and finesse.

 

A masterful storyteller, Moore’s dreamscape retrospectively entwines a bewitching fantasy of ancient folklore with a heart-warming contemporary narrative to marry the traditional with the new, the fantastic with the real, the joyous with the sinister and the mystical with the cynical. Narratively more accessible and visually more arresting than The Secret of Kells, the classic narrative of attempts to reach home in the face of adversity, driven by a host of recognizable archetypes in possession of traditional Irish values, engenders a nostalgically recognizable milieu that summons a language and behaviour of a bygone era, bringing a sense of wondrous familiarity to the film’s narrative and overall comforting aesthetic. Song of the Sea explicitly embraces its revisionism through its highly conventional narrative, stereotypes and style to commemorate a time when a sense of collective national and cultural identity appeared more clearly defined and resolute. Moore, however, does not glorify an idealised past in blissful amnesia. Shards in the narrative detail dark subtexts infusing a socio-cultural commentary that is fully aware of the past’s own failings. Themes of abandonment, alcoholism, depression, grief and isolation recall metaphorical legends of an ancient past realised through a more conflicted contemporary narrative, creating a vision that is both romantic and discordant but underpinning a sentimentality that is firmly embedded in its Irish identity.

 

Song of the Sea is a magical feast of visual delights, narrative intrigue and nostalgic revisionism that will appeal to the inner child of all ages. It can be viewed as a yearning to return to a familiar past and reclaim a forgotten identity, lost in an ever-increasing chaotic culture, both narratively and within the context of the animation genre. It serves to reinforce a more coherent vision of the past through its use of over-familiar and universal narrative devices, which will effectively resonate with knowing audiences, particularly those familiar with the pre-Celtic Tiger era in Irish culture. Song of the Sea does not seek to dethrone the existing digital prowess dominating the animation genre but rather through revisiting conventional mores within the genre itself it, celebrates a simplistic but highly emotive method of animation filmmaking and a distinctly traditional way of authentic Irish life.

Dee O’Donoghue

PG (See IFCO for details)
93 minutes

Song of the Sea is released 10th July 2015

Song of the Sea – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Grand Seduction

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DIR: Don McKellar • WRI: Ken Scott, Michael Dowse • PRO: Barbara Doran, Roger Frappier • DOP: Douglas Koch • ED: Dominique Fortin • CAST: Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch, Liane Balaban, Gordon Pinsent

Based on Seducing Doctor Lewis, a French-Canadian film from 2003, The Grand Seduction’s title change suggests perhaps a more genteel sensibility in its marketing, a romantic appeal to bygone values, which curiously extends throughout the film’s attitudes to the politics of gender, work, and blue-collar living, to mixed results.

Opening with a chorus of orgasms reminiscent of Jean Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie, protagonist Murray (Gleeson) recalls how his hometown of Tickle Head, Newfoundland was once a tight-knit, hard-working community of fishermen, directly linking the difficult physical labour undertaken by the townsmen to their virility and domestic satisfaction. Times have changed, however, as the only person who appears to have a comfortable job there anymore is the postmistress Kathleen, doling out welfare cheques to any and every man in town. Things are so dire in the harbour town that Murray’s wife relocates to the city to take a job to support the couple, if you can imagine something so shocking. Amidst this economic strife, a multinational oil company is scouting locations for its new petro-chemical plant, but Tickle Head’s chances of winning the plant are slim to none without a doctor residing there. Enter Dr. Lewis (Kitsch). Caught with cocaine at a nearby airport by the town’s former mayor, he is offered a highly unusual way out of a drug charge – to move to Tickle Head for a month, while the plant is being negotiated.

Once word of Dr. Lewis’ impending arrival reaches the town, Murray leads the residents in conspiratorial hoodwinks to ‘seduce’ the doctor into staying put for good which, Murray lies, will guarantee them the plant. From here on in, the name of the game is farce, with the hockey-loving Newfies attempting to learn the rules of Lewis’ favourite sport, cricket, encouraging a flirtation with what appears to be the town’s only single young woman (Kathleen the postmistress again), tapping his phone to gauge how to improve his experience of the town, and in one of the funnier running jokes, leaving random banknotes for him to find on the pier, because people love finding money unexpectedly.

The ‘small-town conspiracy to fool Big Business’ plot recalls Waking Ned, and the humour is similarly gentle and formulaic, but effective, due to the strength of the performers involved. A number of set-pieces, such as an impromptu census by the oil company and an attempted cricket match, will raise a chuckle, but it is the cast that elevate the material. It’s a nice change to see Kitsch play in front of the naturally beautiful landscape of Newfoundland rather than the green screens of Mars, and with talented, lively actors rather than world-crushing aliens, and he makes for a convincing straight man equally amused and bemused by the Tickle Head locals. As in almost everything he does, Gleeson imbues his stuffy character with enough heart and good intention that it’s easier to overlook his questionable actions and attitudes.
Yet it is the latter point that gives me pause. While ‘old-fashioned’ as an adjective is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to comedy, the film’s most effective beats evoking classic sitcoms and ’30s screwball flicks, the politics of masculinity, multinationals, and economic survival at play in The Grand Seduction seem anachronistic in a way that goes unchallenged. That the best a former fishing village can hope for is the arrival of a huge corporation to engage the local economy in more unskilled, finite work – and that this itself is dependent on an American investment, so to speak, in the form of Dr. Lewis’ residency – is a bleaker message than the general tone of the film’s ending seems to suggest. Not to mention that most of the film’s action is driven over anxiety over female control: the only reason Murray ends up at the fateful town meeting in which he decides to bid for the plant is to avoid a fight over his wife’s decision to get a job, which naturally gives rise to jokes about how she will soon dominate him sexually as well. It’s as if the feminist movement never happened.

Nevertheless The Grand Seduction is an old-fashioned farce elevated by triumphant, charismatic performers. As with many a grand seduction, the best part is not the destination, but the journey, the enticement, the lead-in, and the film offers plenty of easy laughs and delightful moments along the way to its big finish.

Stacy Grouden

12A (See IFCO for details)

113 minutes

The Grand Seduction is released 29th August

Obvious Child –  Official Website

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Q&A with John Michael McDonagh, director of ‘Calvary’

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Calvary, starring Brendan Gleeson, is released on DVD and Blu Ray from today. John Michael McDonagh’s film opened in American cinemas last week and Film Ireland threw a few questions across the Atlantic to the director in the hope he’d give us some tasty feedback – he certainly did.

 

With the release of Calvary in the US how’s the whole experience treating you?

The critical response has been fantastic, but my liver is suffering at this point.

Despite the “big issue” of the film, for me it’s quite a personal film about what it is to be good – and the scenes between Father James and Fiona are telling… can you tell us about this aspect of the film?

Those scenes were expanded upon after Brendan received the first draft. They made the film more emotional, less nihilistic and detached. They are now some of my favourite scenes in the film.

We recently spoke to composer Patrick Cassidy who said the film was “a great canvas for an underscore” – could you talk a little about the music from your perspective?

I’m somebody who can happily watch films that have absolutely no music at all (a Michael Haneke film, let’s say), but I know that for most audiences music helps them connect emotionally with a film. Patrick was the perfect composer to work with because he provided a very emotional and moving score but allowed me to use that score quite sparingly and at very specific moments.

Brendan Gleeson has spoken to us about how Sligo had “a real bearing on how everybody interacts” in Calvary, how did you approach the use of that particular location and what was your visual ambition for this film?

I didn’t want to make a small, parochial, “Irish” film. I wanted it to be expansive and cinematic. The landscape of Sligo gave me that widescreen grandeur. Producers in Ireland need to look to themselves, they need to go on location, they need to stop shooting everything in fucking Dublin and Wicklow.

It’s turning out to be a good year for Irish film and we still have the likes of Glassland and Patrick’s Day to come – how important is it for you to be a part of this?

It’s not important for me at all, but I wish both those films well. I know the filmmakers are committed. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Thanks for your time – appreciate it…

No worries

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Cinema Review: Calvary

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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

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Interview: Brendan Gleeson and John Michael McDonagh, ‘Calvary’

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Lorna Buttimer chats to John Michael McDonagh, writer/director of Calvary and its star Brendan Gleeson ahead of the film’s release in Irish cinemas.

John Michael McDonagh and Brendan Gleeson clearly get on well. Calvary is their second feature together, and it sees the two tackle the Sligo landscape to portray the life of Father James, the kindly priest who learns by confession that a parishioner plans to murder him in retribution for the crimes of the Catholic Church in seven days’ time. Not knowing if the threat is real, the priest tries to put right the many problems in his small rural community, and reconnect with his estranged daughter (Kelly Reilly) before his possible murder.

Gleeson, of course, plays Father James, the player upon the Sligo stage. ‘Father Jamo’, in Gleeson’s words, is someone aware of his particular uniform. But what separates him from his peers is the fact that he is a ‘modern creature’. ‘Like when Jesus knocks the hell out of the money guys in the temple and kicks them out, it seems to me that Father James comes from that line. There is a rage in him about the self-serving, petty mindlessness of it all,’ claims Gleeson.

Father James comes to the Catholic Church after a marriage, a child and a troubled life with alcohol. In Gleeson’s view, these experiences make his character stand apart. ‘It gives him a personal life, a personal history. Father James has been in the world; he has had contact with stuff maybe other priests don’t have.”.

As a result of such experience, Father James is able to reach out to his parishioners and through that, maybe discover who wants him dead. ‘John said I was more or less a Samurai in a way. And the funny thing was when I went to get fitted for the vestments I got a real weird goose-bumpy, tingly kind of a thing, where it was like a suit of armour, and you’re the protectorate of all things good. I wasn’t prepared for it or didn’t expect it.

‘And that’s what he does – he goes and he takes on the forces of despair and he’s fighting his own temptation of despair quite a lot too. Rather than someone who went into the church naively, he understands how dark it can be and the temptation to go into despair. He becomes a lightning rod for everyone else’s disillusionment and they try their hardest to break him. But in the end they don’t really want to break him at all; they want their own cynicism to be overturned by his belief.’

The film is marked by its use of location. Shot in Sligo, both are keen to emphasise how the film flourished under Ben Bulben’s deep shadow. ‘The locations are very important, you know, Galway was very important on The Guard and Sligo was very important on this one,’ says McDonagh.

‘It has a real bearing on how everybody interacts,’ elaborates Gleeson, ‘and just the way people carry themselves. It’s only working when you feel part of the place. And you can see that in the film – you really can.’

With smaller budgets, crews and time, sometimes Irish films don’t make it to the actual location. For Gleeson, this is a huge mistake. ‘You’re going to get the counter argument that if you go to a location it’s a day to travel and a day to travel back and if you’re trying to keep to budgets that you’re pushing to the limit. There is always the temptation for people to say “sure Wicklow’s just down the corner”. But it has a huge impact on the film – the whole Ben Bulben thing in this, it’s so iconic.’

Speaking about Ireland’s landscape, McDonagh tells how Ryan’s Daughter ‘was a big influence on this and The Guard – the way it’s shot; just beautiful scenes all the way through, scenes that showed how you could shoot Ireland’. He further muses, ‘With Calvary, if you look at all the scenery, you wonder why hasn’t an Irish film been shot there before?’

To answer this, McDonagh recognises that the Irish film industry is perhaps too centralised in Dublin. When budgets and schedules are tight, Wicklow, ‘down around the corner’, is cheap and easy for outdoor locations. For the director this isn’t palatable any longer. ‘That seems to be the default position but it just leads to this kind of visually claustrophobic set of films that are all or mostly set in the Dublin environment,’ and for McDonagh, that doesn’t cut it. Here is a filmmaker that wants to explore, portray and discover what that the Irish landscape has to offer.

Calvary premiered at Sundance. McDonagh says he was delighted with the reaction. ‘There’s the strain of black humour that lasts throughout the movie. I thought about half way through that the audience were going to go ‘Awh this is gonna’ go really dark’ but what happened was, even in the last third of the film, we were still getting laughs and I think it was because certain scenes were just so dark that people just wanted some kind of relief. I was pleased they got the reactions, the rhythms and everything, and I think they grasped quite quickly that the film wasn’t The Guard Take Two’.

And the question on everyone’s lips – will the two work together again? The answer is yes –  it’s already in development. ‘Yeah, we’ve got one more’, reveals McDonagh, ‘I haven’t written it but it’s gonna be about an abusive paraplegic, so Brendan will be in a wheelchair scuttling around South London!’

Calvary is released in cinemas 11th April 2014

 

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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

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