Book Review: The Films of Lenny Abrahamson

Stephen Porzio checks out Barry Monaghan’s comprehensive study of the films of contemporary, highly critically-appraised Irish director Lenny Abrahamson.

Barry Monaghan’s new book The Films of Lenny Abrahamson is the definitive exploration of perhaps Ireland’s finest director.

Analysing the filmmaker’s career from early shorts Mendel and 3 Joes all the way to Oscar-nominee Room, the scholarly essay-style work explores how Abrahamson managed to transcend the barriers of Irish and art-house cinema, garnering worldwide acclaim and profits. It then wraps up with a transcript of a conversation between Monaghan and the director.

The book’s biggest strength is its argument for Abrahamson as a true auteur figure. While the filmmaker has fluctuated between countries and genre, telling wildly different stories, Monaghan keenly points out recurring elements in his work.

He posits that Abrahamson’s breakout success could be down to the fact that many of our nation’s dramas which preceded him were explicitly dealing with lrish-specific stories. This made them less accessible worldwide, lowering their chance of big box-office returns. Monaghan argues that Abrahamson is more successful because his exploration of contemporary Irish issues is kept often as subtext, making them fiercely relevant here but capable of being understood abroad.

Adam and Paul and Garage are both dramas about how, during the Celtic Tiger, certain pockets of Irish life were left behind. However, lacking overt references to the boom, the former could equally be perceived as a warped fairytale and the latter a sad portrait of rural loneliness that could resonate with anyone. Similarly, What Richard Did is a drama examining notions of privilege set in Dublin’s southside rooted in true events. Yet, in making only implicit references to its social backdrop, its story still works outside of said context.

This also extends to his work outside Ireland. Frank serves as a demystification of the artistic process but doubles as a whacky comedy. Room is a film somewhat based on the infamous Fritzl case but told from the perspective of a child, making it also a coming-of-age story. By avoiding heavy references to true life, Abrahamson’s movies avoid polemical debate, instead favouring to immerse audiences in their characters’ worlds.

Monaghan also highlights how Abrahamson’s films all feature in someway or another a Beckettian exploration of the failures of language. They also each eschew traditional narratives, in favour of building characters – all of whom never fit generic archetypes.

The book is not geared for casual reading, feeling very academic. Thus, it is stuffed with references to other scholars. Occasionally, these can overwhelm the conversion about Abrahamson’s oeuvre. This is notable in the section on Frank. One wonders whether references to Jacques Lacan’s philosophy in discussing the Frank Sidebottom mask or harking back to the work of George Melies when exploring Domhnall Gleeson’s unreliable narrator are necessary. This is also heightened by the fact that the book excludes talk of Abrahamson’s notoriously hard to track down four-part series Prosperity (RTE please release that on DVD!), something fans of the director would rather be reading.

There is also a feeling it may have been too early to release a book about the filmmaker. This was written before the release of The Little Stranger, the director’s most interesting movie to date – an unsettling horror film which fits with all of Monaghan’s points about Abrahamson’s work but also failed to wield big profits. Meanwhile, with him set to adapt Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People for BBC, there is a sense Abrahamson has more fascinating work ahead of him.

Still, in terms of work to date, this is essential reading for die hard fans of Irish cinema, as well as those in a film theory course prepping an essay on any of Abrahamson’s movies.

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On the Red Carpet Podcast: The Little Stranger

Lenny Abrahamson’s new film The Little Stranger tells the story of Dr. Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson), the son of a housemaid, who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. During the long hot summer of 1948, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked. The Hall has been home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries. But it is now in decline and its inhabitants – Mrs. Ayres (Charlotte Rampling), Roderick Ayres (Will Poulter) and Caroline Ayres (Ruth Wilson) – are haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life. When he takes on his new patient, Faraday has no idea how closely, and how disturbingly, the family’s story is about to become entwined with his own.

Gemma Creagh was at the European premiere at the Light House cinema in Dublin and talked to Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Lenny Abrahamson and Ruth Wilson.

 

 

 

The Little Stranger is currently in cinemas

 

 

Irish Film Review: The Little Stranger

 

Film Ireland Podcasts

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Irish Film Review: The Little Stranger

DIR: Lenny Abrahamson • WRI: Lucinda Coxon • DOP: Ole Bratt Birkeland • ED: Nathan Nugent • MUS: Stephen Rennicks • DES: Simon Elliott • PRO: Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan, Ed Guiney • CAST: Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter, Charlotte Rampling

It’s always fascinating when filmmakers who made their name in drama try their hand at a genre movie. This is for two reasons. The output tends to skew from the standards of that genre and in those differences one can see clearly the motifs and themes the director is interested in exploring. Such is the case with Lenny Abrahamson’s new horror The Little Stranger.

Set in 1948 England, Domhnall Gleeson stars as Faraday, a doctor from humble beginnings who returns to the luxurious estate where his mother once worked as a maid. Adoring the building as a boy, he is shocked to see it falling into disrepair – damaged by the fall of the British Gentry post-WWII due to heavy taxation. 

Faraday is called to the estate by the owner Angela Ayres (Charlotte Rampling) because a young maid (Liv Hill) is frightened of being left alone in the large, empty house. While there, he begins to treat Angela’s son Roddy (Will Poulter), a PTSD stricken war veteran whose wounds have healed poorly. In doing so, Faraday forms a close bond with Roddy’s sister Caroline (Ruth Wilson). However, spooky goings-on in the house begin to terrorise those living there.

Adapted from an acclaimed novel by Sarah Waters – whose Fingersmith became last year’s The Handmaiden – it sounds in plot like the stage is set for a classic gothic ghost story. However, while the trailers may be selling the movie as such, Abrahamson has other things on his mind.

The Little Stranger is a trojan horse of a film. It lures viewers in with one thing, but delivers something different, if substantially more interesting. While there are brief and well-executed moments of ghostly threat, this is foremost a psychological thriller about class and obsession.

It’s nearly forty minutes before anything supernatural happens. Instead, Abrahamson – working from Lucinda Coxon’s script – takes the time to establish Faraday’s childhood infatuation with the house. We see these gorgeously shot vivid flashbacks to his youth at the estate, juxtaposed with darker, gloomier shots of the withering estate. 

In this period of the film, we see the working-class Faraday trying to secure what he has always secretly wanted – these nobles’ approval. However, even when he does become a friend of the family – being invited to dinner parties and soirees – there is this palpable sense of an invisible divide between him and the Ayres. Their acquaintances constantly reference his position as family doctor or treat him as a butler. Abrahamson builds remarkable tension during these scenes, often emphasising the uncomfortableness of the situations through close-ups on Faraday as he struggles to maintain respectability out of anger.

The film could be divisive as any supernatural activity which does occur feels almost like background. The titular little stranger is more of a personification of all the external pressures the Ayres face in terms of keeping the house. What’s truly disturbing, however, is Faraday’s slowly growing obsession with the estate, at some points even going as far as to put the family in danger so that he can live there. Whether these two plot-lines align satisfyingly will be up to each individual’s own interpretation. However, Abrahamson does muster a moody menace throughout the entire film, jumping further into the darkness that often pervades his central characters in movies such as Frank, Garage or Room. 

Gleeson’s performance is incredible. Although playing a very stiff-upper lip character throughout, he imbues Faraday with a charm in the first part of the film – partly deriving from his wide eyes and slight smile when recounting his time in the house as a boy. As the movie continues, however, these qualities fall away. Viewers are left questioning themselves for their previous affection for Faraday as he becomes increasingly driven to protect the estate above all else.

In many ways, The Little Stranger serves as a companion piece to Phantom Thread – another psychological character study which wasn’t quite what was sold to audiences, has horror elements, is set nearly in the same time and place and has similar themes. One hopes The Little Stranger finds the audience that film did. 

Stephen Porzio

111 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
The Little Stranger is released 21st September 2018
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Lenny Abrahamson to Direct Adaptation of Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’

BBC announces Lenny Abrahamson and Element Pictures to adapt Sally Rooney’s Booker nominated Normal People.

Sally Rooney is set to adapt the novel herself for BBC3 directed by Lenny Abrahamson and produced by Element Pictures . The book has recently been long listed for the 2018 Booker Prize.

Normal People is an exquisite, modern love story about how one person can unexpectedly change another person’s life and about how complicated intimacy can be. Over several years, we follow Marianne and Connell – both from a small west of Ireland town, but from very different backgrounds – as they embark on an on-off romance that starts at school and continues through college, as they test their relationship, experiment with other partners and explore different versions of themselves.

The book is full of all the awkwardness, humour and confusion that accompanies love and sex and offers the opportunity to make a television show about being young that is frank, smart and intoxicating.

Sally Rooney, says: “I feel very privileged to be working with such an extraordinary team on the adaptation of “Normal People.” I’m looking forward to the challenge of working in a new form, and of thinking about these characters and their lives in new ways.”

Normal People will be directed by Irish film director Lenny Abrahamson who said: “Sally is a writer of the highest calibre and in ‘Normal People’ she captures the ebb and flow of intimacy and desire with extraordinary skill. I’m proud to be part of bringing her work to the screen audience it deserves.”

Ed Guiney of Element Pictures, says “Sally’s novel is a beautifully written, utterly beguiling exploration of an incredibly intense love story, the subtlety and specificity of which is breathtaking. There is no better film maker than Lenny Abrahamson to realise its potential for the screen. We are delighted to help bring this brilliant project to life.”

Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, says: “Sally is one of the most engaging young writers of her generation and the BBC is thrilled to be working with her on her first piece for television. Normal People is a beautifully crafted story based on a journey of love and friendship, and it has been an absolute privilege to read Sally’s forthcoming novel ahead of publication and see how she has started to adapt this coming of age story for BBC Three.”

Damian Kavanagh, Controller of BBC Three, adds: “At BBC Three we are 100% committed to providing a platform for fresh contemporary new voices like Sally Rooney. Her new novel Normal People is a wonderfully brilliant depiction of young love, friendship and the journey towards adulthood and I cannot wait to see how Sally, Lenny Ed and the team bring it to life on screen for the BBC Three audience.”

Winner of the 2017 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, Sally Rooney’s debut novel Conversations with Friends was the Guardian, Observer, Daily Telegraph and Evening Standard’s Book of the Year, alongside one of Vogue’s 10 Best Books of 2017. Normal People will be published by Faber & Faber in September 2018.

Normal People will be produced by Element Pictures for BBC Three.

Filming dates and casting will be announced in due course.

 

 

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Lenny Abrahamson’s ‘The Little Stranger’ in Cinemas 21st September

Lenny Abrahamson’s The Little Stranger, based on Sarah Waters’ best-selling novel, will be released in Irish cinemas on 21st September 2018.

Dr. Faraday, the son of a housemaid, has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. During the long hot summer of 1947, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked. The Hall has been home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries and is now in decline.  But Mrs Ayres, and her two grown children, Caroline  and Roddy, are haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life.  When he takes on his new patient, Faraday has no idea how closely, and how terrifyingly, the family’s story is about to become entwined with his own.

The film stars Domhnall Gleeson as Dr Faraday; Golden Globe winner Ruth Wilson  as Caroline Ayres; BAFTA winner Will Poulter as Roderick Ayres; and Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling as Mrs Ayres.

The Little Stranger is produced by Gail Egan, Andrea Calderwood  and Ed Guiney; and executive produced by Cameron McCracken for Pathé, Daniel Battsek for Film4, Andrew Lowe for Element Pictures, Celine Haddad for the Irish Film Board and Tim O’Shea for Ingenious.

Director of Photography is Ole Birkeland, with Costumes by Steven Noble and Hair and Make-Up by Sian Grigg . Simon Elliott  is Production Designer; Nathan Nugent  Editor; and the Music is by Stephen Rennicks.

The Little Stranger is a Pathé, Film4, Irish Film Board and Ingenious presentation of a Potboiler Production in association with Element Films. The film was developed by Film4 with Potboiler and Element Films.

Pathé will distribute the film in the UK, France and Switzerland; and Focus Features acquired the film from Pathe International for distribution throughout the rest of the world.

 

 

http://filmireland.net/2018/05/01/irish-films-to-look-out-for-in-2018/

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Trailer: The Little Stranger’

 

Feast your eyes on the first trailer for Lenny Abrahamson’s latest feature, The Little Stranger, set for release later this year.

 

The drama, which is adapted for the screen by Lucinda Coxon (The Danish Girl), features Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter, and Charlotte Rampling among its cast.The Little Stranger is produced by Element’s Ed Guiney and Exec produced by Andrew Lowe.

 

Gleeson plays Dr Faraday, the son of a housemaid, who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. During the long hot summer of 1948, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked.  The Hall has been home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries.  But it is now in decline and its inhabitants – mother, son and daughter – are haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life.  When he takes on his new patient, Faraday has no idea how closely, and how disturbingly, the family’s story is about to become entwined with his own.

 
 

 

 

http://filmireland.net/2018/05/01/irish-films-to-look-out-for-in-2018/

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The 6th Irish Film Festival London Announces An Audience with Lenny Abrahamson

lenny-abrahamson

The Irish Film Festival London  present an audience with Festival Patron Lenny Abrahamson, the Academy Award nominated director of RoomAdam & PaulGarageWhat Richard Did, and Frank, at the Regent Street Cinema at 9pm on November 25th.

 

Lenny Abrahamson was born in Dublin in 1966. He studied physics and philosophy at Trinity College Dublin and then changed paths to pursue his passion for Film. After a successful few years working on short films and commercials in Ireland and abroad, he completed his first feature film ‘Adam & Paul’.

 

His second feature, Garage, was selected for Director’s Fortnight at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. This was followed by What Richard Did, which screened at Toronto, London BFI and Tribeca. His fourth feature, Frank, starring Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The director’s latest film, Room, was released in 2015 and received more than one hundred awards and nominations, including four Academy Awards nominations for Best Film Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Achievement in directing, with Brie Larson going on to win the Oscar for Best Actress.

 

Lenny will discuss his career highlights, the challenges he has faced and his inspirations, and will be on hand to answer questions from the audience. Tickets are £15 and are available from www.regentstreetcinema.com

 

Speaking about the eventFestival Director Kelly O’Connor said: “This will be a great opportunity for film fans to hear first-hand about Lenny’s rise to Oscars success. It will be a special treat, as Lenny is one of those rare filmmakers who has remained true to his roots, despite his global recognition.”

 

In addition to the discussion, Lenny will host a workshop with the Film and Screenwriting MA students at the London Film School. Interested parties can contact the LFS directly at: v.fricke@lfs.org.uk

 

Returning to the capital’s cinemas this November for the 6th year, the Irish Film Festival London (IFFL) will bring an exciting line-up of the very best in contemporary Irish cinema to London audiences. The five-day festival, which counts Director Lenny Abrahamson and Casting Director Ros Hubbard (Lord of the RingsThe Bourne Ultimatum) among its patrons, brings together industry professionals, film fans and fans of Irish Arts & Culture alike. Focusing on Irish productions, scripts and casts, it provides a significant platform for Irish Film in London, and ensures that the best of Irish creative talent is promoted here in the UK.  Irish films and filmmakers also have the opportunity to walk away with one of our coveted festival awards. The festival gets support from the Emigrant’s Support Programme, Irish Film Board, the IFI, Film London and Culture Ireland. Irish Film London also runs events throughout the year, including the film section of the St. Patrick’s Day Festival with the GLA, children’s cinema programmes, networking and film industry talks/ workshops.

 

The Irish Film Festival London runs from 23rd to 27th November 2016.

See www.irishfilmlondon.com for more details.

 

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Lenny Abrahamson Joins Irish Film London as Patron

 

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The Irish Film Festival London has announced Lenny Abrahamson as their new Patron.

Lenny Abrahamson said: “I am a big fan of the festival and the opportunities they’re providing for Irish filmmakers in the UK. They are bringing the best of contemporary Irish film to audiences in London and I’m proud to be a part of what they’re accomplishing.”

Festival Director Kelly O’Connor said, “We couldn’t be happier for Lenny as he receives this well deserved international appreciation.

“We love Lenny’s work and have had the privilege of screening all of his films over the years. After our preview screening of Room at our most recent festival last November, he enchanted our audience with a live full screen Skype Q&A at the Rio Cinema in Dalston.

“He has always been very supportive of us and we are thrilled to welcome him on board as a Patron”.

Abrahamson joins London-based casting director Ros Hubbard who is also a Patron of the festival.

Irish Film London is now entering its 6th year

 

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