Trailer: Brain on Fire


Gerard Barrett’s new film Brain on Fire stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Susannah Cahalan, a journalist at the New York Post who suffers from an inexplicable illness that has her hearing voices, hallucinating, battling bouts of paranoia and lashing out during violent episodes.

Described as a a medical mystery psychological drama, the full cast includes Richard Armitage, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tyler Perry, Thomas Mann, Vincent Gale, Nicole LaPlaca, Navid Negahban, Agam Darshi, with an appearance by Jenny Slate



Gerard Barrett on ‘Glassland’


At a recent screening of Glassland, writer/director Gerard Barrett took part in a post-screening discussion of his film. Gerard began by explaining his intention that the story be one that could be set anywhere. “You don’t see the Luas, you don’t see Dublin buses or anything like that. For me, it’s very much an urban setting somewhere. If the accents were different it could have been somewhere else. Yes, it’s an Irish film and it’s set in Ireland but it’s an international story. It was important for me to make a film that would have an international appeal.”

Assembling a terrific cast, Gerard shot the film in 17 days. “We had Toni Collette for 4 and a half days. We had Will Poulter for 4 days and Michael Smiley for a day and a half. It was great. It was intense. It was raw. It was real. Toni was coming off a huge TV show in America. Jack [Reynor] was coming of Transformers. Will was coming off The Maze Runner and Michael was coming off The World’s End. They were all coming off these huge productions but were ready to be put in to the world of the film. It’s a tough piece to make in a sense but everyone that was there wanted to be there.

“It is a tough film. It’s not for everybody, Someone said to me it’s uplifting… It’s about families coming together and sticking through it. I love hearing that. That is there – you just have to find it. The answers are there on the screen. The film is about the collateral damage of addiction. It’s not about the addict. It’s about the people that are around that person – the chaos, the crisis, the danger. Every family goes through some form of a crisis at some stage. It’s not easy but what’s great is that most families stick together and pull through. In this film that’s the case. You need that one person, that one sibling in every family that will stand up and take control. That’s why I think a lot of people love Jack’s character. He has no smartphone,  no laptop, social media doesn’t come into his life, he doesn’t watch TV or put the radio on in his car. He’s very focused, just listening on his headphones to whatever he’s listening to. He’s on a mission. His job is to keep that family together.”


Glassland is in cinemas now




DIR/WRI: Gerard Barrett • PRO: Juliette Bonass, Ed Guiney  • DOP: Piers McGrail • ED: Nathan Nugent • DES: Stephanie Clerkin  • Cast: Will Poulter, Toni Collette, Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley, Harry Nagle

Sometimes a movie will come on the receiving end of the positive side of a double standard by film critics and audiences alike. Gerard Barrett’s first movie Pilgrim Hill was granted some of those respites, with defenders often claiming, “Look what he managed to do with such a small budget?” or “Can you imagine he was only 26 when that movie came out?” Lovers and haters alike now have Barrett’s follow-up in their sights, as he folds in an all-star cast and an accompanying healthy budget. Thankfully, Barrett the director rises to the challenge, even if Barrett the screenwriter sometimes leaves us short-changed.

Try to avoid the movie’s IMDb page, or any kind of synopsis if you can, as the official version of the movie’s plot tells a slightly different story to the one you’ll actually sit down to watch. All we’ll say is that Shane (Jack Reynor) is a young Dublin based taxi driver, attempting to deal with his alcoholic mother (Toni Colette) and a best-friend (Will Poulter) whose impending departure to Australia will see Shane’s last connection to a somewhat normal life being cut away. There are later developments including an addiction specialist (Michael Smiley) and a third-act plot-intrusion which threatens to derail all the subtle work done up until then, but for the most part it’s a quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) two hander between Reynor and Colette, or Reynor and Poulter.

Much like Pilgrim Hill, Barrett loves leaving the camera on each scene just a little bit too long, and more often than not it works in his favour, resulting in a level of honest uncomfortableness from each of the actors when they’re not faced with an easy “Cut!” This same patience can sometimes result in scenes that drag on for far too long, especially one which seems to focus on a closed door for almost ten seconds after everyone else has left the scene, and even at a scant 93 minutes, some judicious editing would’ve shaved at least ten minutes away.

Getting some amazing performances from his cast – one car-based breakdown from Reynor in particular will remind those blinded by Trans4mers that he’s actually a talented actor – and presenting Dublin neither as a glittering metropolis nor a drug-infused sink-hole, but actually as it really is, Barrett has already made a huge jump in quality from his last outing. We can’t wait to see what he accomplishes with feature number three Brain On Fire, as we’re sure Barrett the director will continue to go from strength to strength. Here’s hoping Barrett the screenwriter doesn’t remain too far behind.

Rory Cashin

15A (See IFCO for details)
92 minutes

Glassland is released 17th April 2015

Glassland – Official Website


Glassland – Review of Irish Film at Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015



Anthony Assad delves into Gerard Barrett’s Glassland, which screened as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.


John (Jack Reynor) lives a life of monotony driving a taxi, often pulling late night shifts just to keep afloat while playing parent to his alcoholic mother Jean (Toni Collette). When John attempts to sober her up and encourage a reconnection with her younger son Kit (Harry Nagle) all hell breaks loose as John’s off-the-meter pick up jobs take a dark and desperate turn to fund his thankless efforts.

Gerard Barrett’s previous feature Pilgrim Hill was a monumental film from the then debutant writer/director, working from a truly miniscule budget that managed to capture the hearts and minds of audiences nationwide, even skimming the pond to achieve resonance across UK, US and Chinese theatres in 2013. Going on to garner the Rising Star Award at the IFTAs meant that expectations were inevitably sky high in the run-up to that all important second feature and I’m happy to say the Dublin premiere of Glassland at this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival proved that his is a star still on a safe and steady rise.

Swapping the rural for the urban may seem like quite a risqué tonal shift but just like the former environs of Pilgrim Hill, Dublin in Glassland is similarly populated by the lost and lonely-hearted with tense familial relations and tethered responsibilities once again the resounding themes. All of these rest upon John’s shoulders who’s caught up in the same vicious circle day after day, he wonders when his mother will come home knowing full well that when she does he’ll have to pick up the pieces. His nights prove just as loathsome with wheels spinning running circles around the city streets picking up strangers and sex workers for a living that quite simply isn’t living. Reynor carries the role with an air of disembodiment, channelling a husk of young man weighed down by the duties an absent father and self-destructive mother have forced upon him. During a habitual visit to A&E, however, the doctors’ reveal that Jean is effectively drinking herself to death and an intervention is at hand, which she’ll prove to fight tooth and nail against.

As such, Toni Collette delivers a ferocious performance as Jean, a granite-faced ghost of a woman walking among the living, haunting her son and would be saviour for prolonging a life she feels has long since past, hers to end however and whenever she so wishes. And yet, there’s a soft core, evoked by an impromptu party scene fuelled by cheap wine and music administered by John to loosen tongues and heartstrings so to get to the bottom of what she’s been running from before going cold turkey. The means to this end is an expertly poised scene as mother and son dance in each other’s arms to Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’ before a clever jump cut leads us towards a harrowing confession that really pushes the prowess of the proceedings, especially Reynor and Collette’s quietly chaotic heart to heart, a world away from the dish throwing teeth baring savagery of prior scenes and yet all the more powerful.

The rest from the wicked is shared among scenes with John and Shane (Will Poulter), his go-to friend whose antics provide some welcome, if not sometimes, guiltily enjoyed comic relief (the video-store dust-up comes to mind). It’s not just a pit stop from the drama however as Barrett creates an interesting duality between the two to highlight the life John has been deprived of. Shane is jobless, living at home off his all too accommodating mother and plotting a hell-raising break away from Dublin, in-between the important stuff like playing video games and avoiding movie rental fees for his own obnoxious amusement. He also found time to father a young child from a one-night stand, obviously not ideal scenarios but these follies of youth are rites of passage, mistakes John can never afford to make (and learn from) when forced instead to look after a stranger in his own home who breaks his heart everyday. Accordingly Reynor downplays the gaiety of their activities, more a silent observer, seeking to revert to his friend’s carefree mind-set but constantly aware and distracted by the myriad of responsibilities all around him.

John’s only fault is that his heart is too big, he alone attends his brother Kit’s eighteenth birthday party struggling to explain why their mother isn’t present and why Kit can’t live with them when in truth it’s because Jean never accepted and blames her life’s downfall because of his down syndrome. Again John is playing the parent and the older brother, the latter letting loose when he joyrides at his brother’s request, and in tow, around an empty car park. When he’s forced to reprimand his mother and drag her to a rehab clinic John’s pushed beyond his limits and loses it, as much for her sake as his, in a stand-out scene that reverberates throughout the rest of the movie and long after the credits roll.

She needs 24-hour surveillance for at least a month to sober-up in a controlled environment where she can push through the withdrawal but even a favour from former addict and councillor Jim (Michael Smiley) is an expense John can only afford if he ups his dark dealings with an illegal trafficker. He’s given an address to pick ‘something’ up for delivery and the resulting scene proves how far into hell and back again he’s willing to venture for his family. He enters the desolate house on the outskirts of town tip-toeing from darkness into light with the camera creeping along behind him like Peter Pan’s shadow, mocking what little innocence he has left in a heart-stopping scene paced to perfection.

There’s heaps of drama (some of it heavy-handed), but the moments of silence coupled with long locked-off compositions of seemingly natural light illuminating unnatural events will either pull you to the edge of your seat or out of the narrative. Yes, the pace may upset some, but it’s a journey that avoids the pitfalls of its genre (gratuitous sex and violence) to reach a destination fuelled by an earnest and unflinching eye.

Deservedly the film went on to win Best Film at the Galway Film Fleadh complimenting Reynor’s nod at Sundance for his outstanding performance and recently picked up the Best Irish Film award at JDIFF and the Michael Dwyer Discovery for cinematographer Piers McGrail’s inimitable contribution. This really is Irish cinema at its best, a truly transcendent and palpable experience shedding glorious light on an issue all too relevant from a bold and emphatic director at the top of his game.

Glassland screened on Friday, 27th March 2015 at the Light House Cinema as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.


Official Trailer for Gerard Barrett’s ‘Glassland’ Released Online


The new official trailer for Gerard Barrett’s Glassland has just been released. Featuring Toni Collette, Jack Reynor and Will Poulter, Glassland opens in cinemas on April 17th.

Glassland also screens at this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film

In in a desperate bid to save his mother (Toni Collette) from addiction and unite his broken family, a young taxi driver ( Jack Reynor) on the fringes of the criminal underworld is forced to take a job which will see him pushed further into its underbelly. But will John be prepared to act when the time comes knowing that whatever he decides to do, his and his family’s lives will be changed forever.



Jack Reynor Awarded Special Jury Prize at Sundance


Jack  Reynor  was awarded a special Jury Prize  at the closing ceremony for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Park City for his performance in Gerard Barrett’s Glassland.

Speaking on the award Reynor commented ‘I’m absolutely thrilled to have been considered and to have won a prize at Sundance this year. It’s definitely a reflection of the work of everybody who was part of the film and I’m incredibly proud to have worked with all of them.’


Glassland is written and directed by Gerard Barrett and produced by Ed Guiney and Juliette Bonass for Element Pictures in association with Barrett’s Nine Entertainment. The film is financed by the Irish Film Board and Element Pictures Distribution who will release the film in the UK and Ireland. Executive producers are Andrew Lowe and Gerard Barrett.
Irish audiences will have the chance to see Glassland  when it goes on nationwide release on April 17th, 2015.

Glassland – Review of Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh


David Gorman checks out Glassland, Gerard Barrett’s highly anticipated follow up to Pilgrim Hill. Glassland screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

The atmosphere in the Town Hall Theatre, the epicentre of the Galway Film Fleadh, had an air of eagerness and excitement about it on Friday night. Two years ago, in the same venue, a young unknown filmmaker was about to emerge on to the Irish film scene with his debut feature, Pilgrim Hill.

Pilgrim Hill (2012) evoked critical acclaim from Ireland and abroad was the most talked about film of that year, resulting in writer/director Gerard Barrett winning Rising Star Award at the IFTAs.  So the excitement and anticipation at this year’s Fleadh for Barrett’s second feature, Glassland, was justified. Barrett, who also wrote both films, is a self-proclaimed proud Kerry man, who was compared to the great Irish playwright John. B Keane when the film was being introduced by the former Minister of Arts.  The irony of both of his films premiering in a theatre and not a cinema was not lost on me.

Barrett says about his second feature, “I come from a close family and I have never known anything else, but the reality is that there are plenty of broken families in Ireland and I wanted to explore that.” It is never easy to follow a successful debut and the pressure that goes with that can distract the best of filmmakers. However, there is an air of confidence about Barrett and it is refreshing to see a young man (Barrett is still only 27) with such passion about storytelling and I am glad that he chose the medium of cinema to convey those stories and not the stage like the comparative Keane.

Glassland progresses at a slow pace and there is a certain amount of patience required, but it is well worth it. Jean (Toni Collette) is slowing killing herself with alcohol and John (Jack Reynor), her son, is her only hope of survival but he is on the verge of a breakdown himself. Reynor’s character is obviously under strain and his family situation is making him sacrifice not only living his life, but possibly putting it at risk also. Reynor has a strong screen presence and can hold the attention of the viewer in long scenes without dialogue or a manipulating score. Toni Collette is unflinchingly raw, almost unrecognisable from the glamour of Hollywood that some might relate her to. She is 100% believable in the role. The strong, believable performances from the lead characters engage the viewer and there is an honesty and sincerity that pervades the film. The writing/dialogue is at times brutally frank but then this frankness is juxtaposed with moments of comedy that resulted in laugh-out-loud moments in the packed theatre.

There are certainly similarities with Pilgrim Hill, the sense of ‘anywhere’ shows why these films are so relatable, the only indication that both films are based in Ireland are the accents, brilliantly pulled off in Glassland by Australian Toni Collette and Will Poulter from England who plays John’s friend. Poulter is responsible for the comedic elements that ease the palpable tension among the audience at times. There is an honesty about Glassland and, again, like Pilgrim Hill, Barrett is certainly not afraid to depict the harsh truth of life in modern Ireland. Another clear similarity between the two films is that the viewer is completely immersed in the main character’s world, which in both cases are claustrophobic, repetitive and mundane.

This film is the type that grows on you as time passes; it dominated the conversation over breakfast the next morning. We need more films like this that explore the prevalent issues in contemporary Irish life –  addiction, emigration, and a sense of isolation from mainstream society. It is fair to say that not everyone might enjoy the pace or visual style over a dialogue-driven narrative. Nevertheless, these are stories that need to be told in Ireland by Irish filmmakers and Barrett is telling them with compassion, subtlety and refreshing honesty. A well-made mature second feature.

Click here for our coverage of Irish Film at the 26th Galway Film Fleadh  (8 – 13 July, 2014)



Glassland: Preview of Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh


The 26th Galway Film Fleadh (8 – 13 July, 2014)


Fri 11th July

Town Hall Theatre


Following the success of his debut Irish feature, Pilgrim Hill, Gerard Barrett is back with his new film, Glassland, which premieres at Galway next week. Glassland explores the grim realities of life for those pushed to the fringes of society in contemporary Ireland. Produced by Element Pictures, the film boasts a talented cast that includes Jack Reynor (What Richard Did, Transformers: Age of Extinction), Toni Collette (Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine) and Michael Smiley (A Field in England).

Director Barrett said that, “The Galway Film Fleadh gave my debut film Pilgrim Hill a platform, and it’s a privilege for me to go back and launch my second film Glassland there. Miriam and Gar played their part in launching my career and it’s a great honour to return where new filmmakers are valued and encouraged.”

Barrett will be looking to mimic the success he gained after his last outing, Pilgrim Hill, premiered at the Fleadh two years ago, winning him the Bingham Ray New Talent Award followed by the 2013 IFTA Rising Star Award.

Set in Dublin, Glassland tells the story of a young taxi driver (Reynor) who is forced to descend ever further into a criminal underworld while trying to save his mother (Collette) from a crippling alcohol addiction.

Tickets are available to book from the Town Hall Theatre on 091 569777, or at

Director Gerard Barrett will attend the screening. 

Director Gerard Barrett

Cast Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley, Toni Collette, Will Poulter

Script Gerard Barrett

Producers Juliette Bonass, Ed Guiney


‘Glassland’ Principal Photography Due to Start


Element Pictures have announced that Glassland, Gerard Barrett’s second feature film after last year’s award-winning debut Pilgrim Hill shoots on 8th January in Dublin. The cast includes Irish actor Jack Reynor, award-winning actress Toni Collette, rising British star Will Poulter and Michael Smiley.


Set in Dublin Glassland tells the story of a young taxi driver (Reynor) who gets tangled up in the world of human trafficking while trying to save his mother (Collette) from addiction.


Glassland is written and directed by Barrett and produced by Ed Guiney and Juliette Bonass  for Element Pictures in association with Nine Entertainment. The film is financed by the Irish Film Board and Element Pictures Distribution who will handle the film in the UK and Ireland. Executive producer is Andrew Lowe.


Gerard Barrett said that he feels “incredibly privileged to get the opportunity to work with this fine group of international actors on Glassland. I look forward to collaborating with them all individually in bringing our story to life on the screen.”




Interview: Gerard Barrett writer and director of ‘Pilgrim Hill’.


Pilgrim Hill tells the story of Jimmy Walsh (Joe Mullins), a middle-aged farmer living in rural Ireland. Unmarried and ill-educated, Jimmy has unquestioningly assumed responsibility for tending to the remote family land and its livestock, and has taken on the care of his ageing father in the same manner. His social life amounts to a couple of pints in the pub when he can get away, and Jimmy is clearly finding his life tough. He’s not prepared for the turn it is about to take.

Niamh Creely talks to Gerard Barrett, winner of this year’s IFTA Rising Star award, about his debut feature which is set in his home county, Kerry.

So where did the inspiration for Pilgrim Hill come from?                                                                                                             

I come from a very rural part of Ireland, a little village just outside Listowel called Knockanure. In about a two or three-mile radius around me I have counted 13 bachelor farmers, ranging from 30 all the way up to 80/90 years of age. And in my own family I have bachelor farmers as well. So I always wanted to tell their story, because it was never a story that was told, in my opinion. Everybody knows somebody that is linked to one ­– either a brother of your mother or father, or a neighbour or a friend, a cousin of a cousin. Now some of them, you know, are very happy to be that way. But more of them were forced into that situation. They are kind of lost souls. Maybe when one parent died very young, one might be caught at home to mind the parents. And the other siblings will go abroad. So it’s an unfortunate situation. So the approach I took was, I just wanted to make a character that I could build all this into. And that was what I came up with for the film. I wanted people to take a moment out to live that life of the character over the 80/90 minutes. Because unfortunately they are the people that we pass on the road. And I just wanted to highlight it. That was my goal.


How did you get into writing scripts, initially?                                                                                                                                   

I finished up my Media Bachelors last year in IT Tralee. And I just sat down and wrote a script. I was very lucky because the script actually got me an agent in London, the Troika Talent Agency. It was a big deal for me, that they appreciated my writing. They said to me this story could easily be set in Yorkshire about a Yorkshire bachelor farmer.


I kind of came up with the plan that I would shoot it independently. I felt I didn’t need to go to the Irish Film Board with this. I felt that it could be done independently, just to give it that rawness and that reality. I thought that if it had too much of a budget it would kill the spontaneity and that realism. So that’s why I gathered up my own money and a budget of €4,500. I got a really great DOP from Cork, Ian Murphy, on board. I wanted to shoot it on the RED camera, because I wanted that width in screen, I wanted to take in the landscape. And he got a really good crew on board, a focus puller, Fergus Long, and a sound guy, Robert O’Halloran. So there was literally just three on the crew and myself. I met the guys and told them, we had eight days, that’s all the money I had. I suppose in reality I could have made it for free. But I wanted to pay everybody that was involved.


So you based the film around the budget.

Sometimes I think people jump too fast into big projects. You have to learn your trade. You have to show that you can make a film and you have to show that you can write a project that is worthy of a film. So for me, I kind of looked at it as an end-of-year college project. I looked at it as a situation where I could go out and prove to people that, yes, look, I can make a feature film. I also wanted to tell this story, because it was just in me. If you had a couple of hundred grand, you would probably be inclined to set up more lights and make it a little bit less real. Whereas what we were doing – every scene, every shot was real, you know. And that’s what people say when they watch it. When I screened it for Mary Mallon in the Light House Cinema they said, ‘Jesus, it’s beyond real.’ People have said, ‘My God, it’s like a documentary more than a film,’ it’s that real. Because you are trying to tell a real story and trying to punch an audience in the stomach to make sure that you know they are taking this in.


You cast a newcomer to the screen, Joe Mullins.                                                                                                                             

Yes. I didn’t want to cast an actor that had any previous screen credits. I went to a play and found Joe Mullins who played the lead role. I saw him and I just said, ‘Jesus, that’s the guy there.’ He was everything I wanted him to be. I met him afterwards and the weirdest thing was that the story I had written was actually his story in real life. He didn’t marry until he was a bit older. He has had a bit of a tough relationship with his father. And… he just was the character. It was weird. People say, ‘oh, it’s a great film.’ But it’s when they say Joe’s performance is mesmerising, that’s when you know you have something great. Because I would much rather them say his performance was amazing than ‘oh my God, it’s shot so well.’ Because it’s like, you can shoot it on an iPhone if you want to, as long as the performance is real. I had a screening down in Listowel and a group of bachelor farmers came to it. A few of them actually walked out because it was too real, because they could relate too much to the film. One woman brought her brother who was a bachelor farmer. I thought she was probably expecting it was going to be The Riordans. And she said, when she went home in the car with him, they didn’t speak.


You made the short film The Valley of Knockanure in 2009. 

Yes, it was part of a college project. It won the Kerry Film Festival and it won awards in the Welsh Film Festival and a few more bits and pieces. I suppose now I have more knowledge of what I could have done with the film, in terms of putting it out there. But I was very reluctant to go near the Film Board, because I just… I felt I wasn’t good enough. I suppose in hindsight I should have probably taken it to the Film Board, because it did capture an audience. But even with Pilgrim Hill, you know when I took it to the Film Board I took it to them in December. I was so nervous because if they say it’s good, mentally, it’s kind of a stamp of approval. It’s a good film if they like it. So I took it to them and Andrew Meehan told me they wanted to get behind it. I just said to him that I had two dreams when I was making the film. One, that the Film Board would acknowledge it as a film and that they would think it was good. And two, that it would premier at the Galway Film Fleadh. So then I just rang Gar O’Brien [programmer of the Fleadh] and said, ‘Look I have this film I shot for €4,500. I know when you hear that, you’ll think it’s probably going to be a ball of shit, but I want you to see it and it’s a dream of mine that it would premier in Galway.’ And he said to me to send it on. I told him that it’s a film you need to see on a big screen and I asked him when he was in Dublin again. He was going to a concert in Dublin at the start of April so I asked him to be at the Light House Cinema at 10 o’clock in the morning. He came with Miriam [Allen, MD of the Fleadh] and Gar and they actually gave me a standing ovation and a clap afterwards. It was a bit weird. Because it was only myself and them in the cinema. But it was just brilliant. After all the hard work and all the tipping and tapping. It all paid off in the end. It was huge for me.


And how did you get your film screened in the Light House?                                                                                                     

I just walked in. I work next door in Brown Bag Films. I just walked in, asked to speak to the manager and said I had a film to show to the Galway Film Fleadh committee. He said they’d do it for X amount. And I said I only had half of that and he agreed. They are brilliant. It’s a brilliant facility.


So you chanced your arm.

Well, as my mother says, a dumb priest never got a parish. You’ve got to ask. That’s my approach to everything. The worst they can say is no. Just recently, I was told that the Film Board will be helping with completion of the film. They really love it and are delighted to get behind it. Andrew Meehan, Sarah Dillion, Patrick O’ Neill and Emma Scott have all been fantastic and I have to thank them for all their support.


So what do you do at Brown Bag?                                                                                                                                                         

I’m working on a Disney show at the moment. I’ve created an adult animated comedy that they really like. And that has been commissioned for 10 episodes. We hope to go into production in August with that. Brown Bag have been very good to me, Darragh O’ Connell and Cathal Gaffney especially.


Do you have a particular writing style or approach?

I will be honest with you. Pilgrim Hill and that type of film is not my style in one sense. But I had such a personal approach to that. Generally my style would be very much out there in terms of dialogue. I would be a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue and Martin McDonagh’s dialogue. I wanted to make Pilgrim Hill because I wanted to learn. I wanted to do a small project that I knew I could do well. A project that was personal to me. So that’s kind of… Look, that was the approach. I am a farmer’s son from north Kerry on a small farm. I am just somebody who likes to tell stories and that’s it. That’s all.


Pilgrim Hill is screening in selected cinemas now.




Cinema Review: Pilgrim Hill


DIR/WRI: Gerard Barrett  PRO: Gerard Barrett • DOP: Ian D. Murphy • ED: Gerard Barrett • CAST: Keith Byrne, Muiris Crowley, Corina Gough, Kevin McCormack

There’s a part of Ireland still untouched by the 21st Century, where the Celtic Tiger’s roar was only a distant echo. So Gerard Barrett’s feature debut Pilgrim Hill shows us. We follow the daily life of rural farmer Jimmy (Joe Mullins) as he goes about his pastoral chores – if it weren’t for the Oreos stacked on the local shop’s shelves or his unemployed young friend Tommy’s (Muiris Crowley) shiny Beamer, Pilgrim Hill could almost be set in the 1950s.

Eschewing the high drama of John B. Keane’s The Field, Barrett’s story takes a more real and reserved approach, as it slowly but steadily reveals the wearying effect the world takes of Jimmy. He cares for his cows like family, even though in his own words they are barely pets. He looks after his stroke-addled father – never seen but ever present – but wishes he didn’t have to. Even his rare trip to the pub is a miserable one; a single pint sipped alone so as not to go over the legal limit. The only real energy in Jimmy’s life comes from the rhythmic pulsing of the milking machine; the rest is silence.

The film is punctuated by a series of almost-to-camera interviews with Jimmy, whose shyly averted gaze says as much as his words. These are great insights into the character, who has never truly bloomed as a person, and they allow Mullins to really get into Jimmy’s skin, but one can’t help but wish there was a more inventive way Barrett might have opened up this character to us.

The steady pacing of the story is accompanied by tidy, withdrawn framing that keenly demonstrates the isolation of the character, marred by some unfortunate lapses of focal depth. Jimmy’s house is littered with items from the life he might have lived – a Rod Stewart mug and a pair of polka-dot purple underwear reveal a side to the man that we will never hear from his lips.

As life takes increasingly cruel tolls on Jimmy, Barrett’s film becomes a study of how much a man can take before he breaks down and cries. Does healing come with tears?

Unambitious but well executed, Barrett reveals himself a filmmaker to keep an eye on, while Mullins, a sometime theatre actor with no prior features under his belt, carries the weight of the film with a sincere, world-weary performance, taut with closeted emotion.

Pilgrim Hill is an honest portrayal of a fragment of Ireland we all too eagerly like to pretend we have left behind us.


David Neary

12A (see IFCO website for details)

Pilgrim Hill  is released on 12th April 2013

Pilgrim Hill – Official Website


North Kerry ‘Pilgrim Hill’ to Open the 13th Kerry Film Festival

Far removed from the glittering lights of Cannes or Hollywood blockbusters, Kerry Film Festival (KFF) has selected a North Kerry film to open its thirteenth festival. The five-day KFF pilgrimage through the best of local, national and international film-making talent steps out this year with a film that exemplifies all that is world class about Kerry in terms of its setting, people and emerging creative talent.


Winner of this year’s Bingham Ray New Talent Award at the Galway Film Fleadh Gerard Barrett’s directorial debut Pilgrim Hill tells the tale of the emotional and financial struggles facing a middle-aged bachelor farmer, Jimmy Walshe, in rural Ireland. Jimmy has dedicated his life to caretaking the crumbling family farm and his bedridden father. It is a solitary existence and yet Jimmy manages to retain his good humour and get through each day. But life is tough in rural Ireland and about to get even tougher for Jimmy.


Conceived, written and shot in North Kerry and featuring stunning performances from West Limerick’s Joe Mullins and Muiris Crowley from Killorglin, Pilgrim Hill succeeds in shining a light on some of the darker issues surrounding rural isolation while retaining a deep and engaging humanity.


Director Gerard Barrett was born in Kerry and attended Tralee IT where he studied Film, TV and Media. He also worked and trained in radio with Kerry Radio. Accepting the invitation to have his film open the festival Mr. Barrett said:


“I’m extremely honoured and privileged that Pilgrim Hill will open the Kerry Film Festival this year. The film has connected with audiences all over the world and achieved more than anyone involved in the film could have ever imagined for it.


Since premièring at the Galway Film Fleadh in July, after awards, acclaim and travelling around the world screening at festivals in North America, Asia and London, at the end of the day, this is a Kerry film through and through. It was conceived, written, shot and edited in Kerry. It got its first public screening in Kerry and it feels right that it comes home after its journey.”


The film will be shown on Tuesday 9th October at 8pm at Siamsa Tire. It will be preceded by a wine reception at 7.30pm. The director and cast will attend the screening.



Full programme information for this year’s Kerry Film Festival will be launched on the 21st September at



Tickets for Pilgrim Hill are available immediately through the Kerry Film Festival website



Kerry Film Festival runs from the 9th – 13th October in Tralee with additional dates around the county during the month of October.



Kerry Film Festival would like to thank The Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon, Kerry County Council/ Comhairle Contae Chiarraí, Tralee Town Council / Comhairle Baile Thra Li, Siamsa Tire and The Brandon Hotel.