Irish Film Review: Rosie

DIR: Paddy Breathnach • WRI: Roddy Doyle • DOP: Cathal Watters • ED: Úna Ní Dhonghaíle • DES: Mark Kelly • PRO: Juliette Bonass, Rory Gilmartin, Emma Norton • MUS: Stephen Rennicks • CAST: Sarah Greene, Moe Dunford, Ellie O’Halloran

Paddy Breathnach’s Rosie, directed from a script by Roddy Doyle, is difficult to try and pigeonhole. It’s at once an authentic family drama, a heart-wrenchingly intimate character study and a warped sort of road film, with a tight focus on displacement, space and identity which is reminiscent of the French cinematic tradition. Crucially, though, with Irish people currently suffering in the midst of an ever-worsening housing crisis, Rosie is timely, well executed and – more than anything else – important.

The narrative follows Rosie (Sarah Greene) and her partner John Paul (Moe Dunford) as they suddenly find themselves homeless and in a desperate struggle to secure somewhere safe for themselves and their four children to stay.  We’re introduced to the characters as they try to go about their daily lives while living out of their car. John Paul is under immense pressure at work and it falls to Rosie to juggle looking after the kids during the day with simultaneously trying to locate beds for the night.

Greene is magnetic in the titular role, carrying a huge amount of the film’s emotional weight on her shoulders. The intensity of Rosie’s living situation, crammed into close quarters with her family, means that she’s barely able to find a private moment for herself. She’s constantly wearing a brave face, trying to remain steadfast and optimistic in front of the children, while a wave of quiet desperation rides right beneath the surface. Greene’s performance is subtle but greatly affecting – a slow sigh or gentle curl of a lip can speak volumes about Rosie’s condition and her character. She shares a crackling chemistry with the steadfast John Paul, who Dunford deftly imbues with a tenderness and fragility which belie his unflinching exterior.

The film challenges the stereotypical images surrounding homelessness and explores the extent to which the havoc wreaked by this housing crisis is crossing social class borders. Open houses are thronged with prospective buyers while spare hotel vacancies are quickly filled with displaced families seeking shelter. It is painfully evident that these hotels, generous as they are, can’t be homes, with children shushed and confined to their rooms for fear of disturbing regular guests. It is quietly moving to see the family’s belongings – regular household items from teddy bears to fairy liquid bottles – crammed into black refuse sacks in the back of their car. Doyle’s screenplay squares up to the stigma that comes hand in hand with the label ‘rough sleeper’. “We’re not rough anything” insists the eponym at the mere mention of the term.

Rosie and John Paul are both desperate to hide the harsh realities of their situation from the people around them, terrified of what they’ll think, and their need to remain unseen comes into conflict with their desire to do what’s best for their family.

Doyle began to write the film after hearing an interview with a woman in a similar situation. He recalls being particularly struck by her admission that her partner worked a 9-5 job during the day and was still forced to sleep rough at night. This dichotomy is one that he purposely keeps in focus throughout the story.

The script neatly side-steps convention and embraces a healthy amount of ambiguity, which really works in the film’s favour. The witty, minimalistic dialogue is recognisably Doyle’s and helps to inject great warmth into Rosie’s otherwise cold world. Particular praise must be reserved for his handling of the film’s minor characters, whom he smartly steers away from cliché territory.

Breathnach’s direction is confident and assured. He has a masterful handle on the story and capably guides the audience through the use of careful framing. Scenes inside the car feel suitably cramped and help to convey the growing unrest of its inhabitants. In contrast, exterior shots are often wide and empty, crafting a tangible sense of hopelessness. Rosie is the film’s focus and the camera intimately hones in on her face in a way that may have been invasive in the hands of a less accomplished filmmaker. Visually Breathnach has a firm command of imagery and symbolism, using repetition to stirring effect.

He has also coaxed strong performances from his younger cast members, most of whom are first-time actors. Darragh McKenzie shines as Rosie’s son Alfie, with one particularly turbulent scene in the final third leaving a lasting impression.

The film is steeped in realism and the world on-screen feels absolutely authentic. Shot on the streets of Dublin, its no-frills approach helps to make the drama feel like a documentary at times. We open with the sound of news broadcasters describing the severity of the housing crisis, blurring the lines between fact and fiction right off the bat. The score is minimalistic but used to great effect.

Rosie is a beautiful film which is bound to make audiences angry. Hiding just behind its lovable characters is a palatable undercurrent of rage, a pent-up anger at the very real plight that good people – men, women and children – are being put through on a daily basis in this country. This is a poignant story that feels intensely personal. Sadly, it’s also urgently political.

David Deignan

82 minutes
12A (see IFCO for details)
Rosie is released 12th October 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview: Director Paddy Breathnach & Writer Mark O’Halloran of ‘Viva’

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Gemma Creagh chats to the director Paddy Breathnach and writer Mark O’Halloran of Viva which introduces us to Jesus, a young hairdresser working at a Havana nightclub that showcases drag performers. Jesus dreams of being a performer himself. Encouraged by his mentor, Mama, Jesus finally gets his chance to take the stage. But when his estranged father Angel abruptly reenters his life, his world is quickly turned upside down.

 


 
You can download/listen to an audio podcast of the interview here

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ADIFF Irish Film Review: Viva

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Deirdre Molumby headed along to Paddy Breathnach’s Viva, which closed this year’s Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

This year, the Audi Dublin International Film Festival closed with the Cuban-shot Irish-produced feature Viva. The screening had generated great anticipation as Viva was one of nine films shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year, and it received critical acclaim at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival last September. Viva also won the Dublin Film Festival’s AUDI-ence award.

Set in Havana and directed by Paddy Breathnach (I Went Down, Shrooms, Man About Dog), Viva follows an eighteen year old named Jesus (newcomer Héctor Medina) who works as a hairdresser and make-up artist for drag performers at a local night club. With his mother deceased and his father in prison, the sweet-natured Jesus makes just enough of a living that he can maintain his humble flat but he dreams of playing a bigger role in the club – performing on stage as a drag act. When one of the show’s lead performers abruptly walks out, auditions are held for a replacement and Jesus gets his chance to shine. However, he is young and inexperienced, and is criticised by his mentor, another performer named Mama (Luis Alberto García), for not delivering feeling on the stage. But Jesus soon has something much bigger to worry about. His father, Angel (Jorge Perugorría), returns from prison, and is determined that Jesus will not perform.

At one point, Angel describes Havana as ‘the most beautiful slum in the world’, and indeed the film paints a beautiful portrait of the city. At the ADIFF screening, star of the film Luis Alberto García, who plays Mama, said the film ‘gave a dignity to poverty’, and this context is very much visible in the film as well. The world is both accessible and welcoming through its smart screenplay and colourfully drawn characters. It is also a relief that while the drag performers are fun and vibrant, they never become silly caricatures as one would see on something like TV reality show Rupaul’s Drag Race. In Alberto García, Héctor Medina and Jorge Perugorría, we get three strong performances and engrossing characters that keep the audience on their toes as their contrasting wills battle out.

Mark O’Halloran’s previous screenwriting credits include Adam & Paul and Garage, two critically acclaimed features directed by Lenny Abrahamson which did wonders for both their careers. Here, O’Halloran again looks at marginalised figures in society and exercises the minimalism he demonstrated in his previous work in this film also. Very little actually happens in Viva and there is a tangible sense of realism in this. We are given a real insight into the place, its characters, and are granted a much more satisfying cinematic experience which opposes escapist fantasy as a result.

At heart, Viva is an age old story about being true to oneself. But with its talented cast, stunning Cuban backdrop, and slowly enrapturing screenplay, it is one with a difference.

 

Viva screened on 28thFebruary 2016 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 18 – 28 February)

 

 

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‘Viva’ Shortlisted for Academy Awards®

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Viva, directed by Paddy Breathnach and written by Mark O’Halloran, has been shortlisted in the category of Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards®. The final list of five nominees will be unveiled on January 14th.

Written by Mark O’Halloran (Garage, Adam and Paul) and directed by Paddy Breathnach (Man About Dog, I Went Down), Viva follows Jesus, an eighteen-year-old Cuban who is lost and struggling to realize his true identity. Unsure of himself or his future direction, he works at a local Havana drag club where he entertains dreams of becoming a performer whilst earning his money through hustling. At home he finds solace listening to the records his mother and grandmother left him. Into his life, however, comes a force to challenge his direction and freedom – his long-lost father Angel, once a celebrated boxer and newly released from a 15-year prison term..”

Viva was produced by Robert Walpole, Rebecca O’Flanagan and Cathleen Dore for Treasure Entertainment ans was funded by Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board, RTÉ and Windmill Lane.

The 88th Academy Awards® will take place on 28th February 2016.

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From the Archive: Paddy Breathnach Interview

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Shrooms director Paddy Breathnach talks to Sheena Sweeney about his influences, the mushrooming Irish film industry and the magic of a little encouragement.

 

Five American college students arrive in Ireland to go on a camping ‘trip’ with their old college buddy Jack.  According to Jack, Ireland has the best magic mushrooms in the world, but in the best horror-flick tradition, psychedelic hallucinations soon turn into premonitions of death and teens start dropping like flies…

 

Paddy, you say you were really keen to make a horror movie – why was that?

 

I think ever since I did Ailsa a long time back, one of the things I was very interested in, even though it’s a long way from horror, was creating an atmosphere and a sense of characters in isolation. Moving with characters on their own, tracking them and having a very close connection with them, that’s something that horrors do all the time and I suppose that’s what I was interested in. It’s one of the genres that the images are often very beautiful and provocative, in a way that you don’t always get in drama.  Sometimes drama can be beautiful in a more picturesque way, whereas horrors can have a melancholy about them or have tones that you might not get a chance to explore otherwise.

 

 

There hasn’t been a really successful horror movie here yet, although Isolation (Billy O’Brian) was one of the best. Why do you think that is?

 

I haven’t seen Isolation so I can’t really comment on that and whether it cracked it or not, but I suppose, you know, it’s not just horror it’s a wide range of things. In any movie industry anywhere, for any ten or fifteen films that get made, one of them cracks it, one of them is good.  And the reality is that still not that many films are made in Ireland – Irish filmmaking is still quite young.  In Hollywood you make a film – for better or worse – and you get all that received wisdom.  You can react to it and say, ‘I don’t agree with you, I’m going to subvert that and go a different way,’ or else you can accept it and use it, but either way it helps clarify things and it pushes you on. At home I think we’re still at the stage where there isn’t received wisdom – we’re still reaching for those sorts of things.  But I think all these things are gradually getting better and better.  But why there haven’t been that many successful horrors…I just don’t think there’ve been that many attempts.  You had Dead Meat a few years ago and then Isolation…

 

About the Irish film industry, what do you think about it now, do you think things have begun to change over the last while?

 

Well, I haven’t seen everything but I think maybe a few things, you know, Lenny Abrahamson’s stuff (Adam and Paul, Garage) and John Carney (Once) in a funny way maybe, because all those people have been around for a while, they’ve been part of doing stuff for seven, eight, nine years, and now they’ve done a few things, learnt a few things, they’re coming back with a bit of wisdom. There’s some experience being brought to things.  And maybe it’s a good time in that sense.  I hate the politics of these things…for me the film business is a collaborative thing between writers, directors, producers, actors, with everyone bringing something to the table. Possibly, at the moment directors are bringing a little more to the table or maybe there’s a confidence in the directors.

 

Do you think it has anything to do with changes in the Film Board or anything like that?

 

You know, I think…I think in the last couple of years it’s been a very positive thing, and maybe a couple of years ago it would have been quite different.  And I’d definitely say Simon Perry (the then Head of the Irish Film Board) has a sense of the filmmaker about him. One of the good things about being in Ireland is that we’re quite critical of ourselves, we’re hard on ourselves and we don’t suffer fools gladly.  But maybe the other side of that, and I’d be one of the worst culprits for this in some ways, is that positive energy and encouragement can have an amazing effect. When you actually try to stimulate someone and put your arm around their shoulder and say, ‘listen that’s great what you did.  Well done.  What are you thinking of doing next?’  It’s amazing how that can push somebody on, maybe someone who’s uncertain about where they’re going. I think there’s more of that now, there’s a nice energy at the moment.

 

Do you live in LA now?

 

Well I’ve spent the last six months here, but I’m actually coming back to Ireland in two weeks time.  I might come back over here next year, it depends on the strike that’s looming here, a writer’s strike. It’s amazing how it affects the whole town and the industry, suddenly a lot of discussions stop happening, studios are sort of preparing for a possible lock-out.  I mean none of these things might happen, but everything’s kind of moving on a daily basis. It’s quite an interesting time here but not a great for setting anything up.

 

Now, obviously your movie has quite an American focus. Would you say your idea of success is to do well in Hollywood? 

 

To be honest with you, I kind of like eclectic things. One of the next things I’m planning is an Irish language Western set in the 1690’s, so that certainly doesn’t fit the Hollywood model. Then one of the things I’ve been thinking about doing for quite a while, which I’m doing with Mark O’Halloran (writer of Adam and Paul and Garage), is a musical about transvestites set in Cuba. So I’ve quite a lot of different things that I do, but one thing I found  in particular after Man About Dog that did very well in Ireland but didn’t travel, was that good international sales are very important. You need to have some degree of commercial success so you can raise money to do another film later on and being able to trade on yourself as a director maybe lets you do things that aren’t as commercial. And particularly in the horror genre, I think the fact that this was an American cast, just opened up foreign sales.

 

I counted seven different Financial sources in the credits for the film. What was the budget?

 

The budget was about four million, but I couldn’t tell you all the sources.

 

The horror genre is often analysed as being about ‘Otherness.’ A monstrous figure can stand for things like sexual deviation in Silence of the Lambs or femininity in films like Cat People. Did you have anything like that in mind when you were working on this? 

 

Well I don’t want to start talking about it too much because I don’t want to give away the plot. I think in this the otherness is the projection of fears that are based on stories.  Then the question ‘are the sources of your fears real or not?’ is posed, and I think the horror and tension are caused by the uncertainty of that.

 

And the idea that genre films are about trying to resolve a  ‘Difference’ of one sort of another…

 

In a way the film deconstructs that idea of difference.  It’s like: what’s the horror in the end?  In a sense the Otherness is a reflection of you.  That’s really what’s happening in it, the horror is you…In some ways it’s not strictly a horror film – it’s actually a mystery. The language of it, and the icons are horror but its structure is more like a mystery suspense, you know what I mean?

 

I do know what you mean, but I don’t know if I would agree…and this leads me into another question. I read you looked to Asian films for your influences and that really did come through.  And I love that school of horror…

 

I think they’re very interesting, and while I don’t think that I completely tapped into it, I think did manage to get part of it. But I think they do two things really, which is that they create horror in a modern environment in terms of the textures and fabrics of a modern house, phones and modern communications where the ghost is literally in the machine, and I think that’s great…

 

Sorry to interrupt you, but just on what you were saying about it being a mystery, the reason I’m saying I don’t know if I would agree, is that I would see it much more in the vein of those Asian movies where it’s not really mystery as much as fear, it’s an attempt to create a sense of pure fear. I think it’s quite a Lynchian thing as well…like when Tara (played by Lindsey Haun) looks around from behind a tree down the pathway to see if she can see the Black Brother, yes, it’s mysterious but it’s more a sense of….

 

Dread

 

Exactly….

 

You sort of know you’re going to see this thing and this dread reaches you.  Yeah.  The other thing is – generally a lot of modern horrors do it, but the Asians do it very well – and that’s playing on female vulnerability by having female protagonists but then sometimes connecting that to rage. I think that’s an interesting thing.  It’s something that’s often been done in masculine films in the past and I’ve seen it in female roles in contemporary horrors, like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and stuff like that. Where you have that idea of physical rage and very intense fear, so you’re seeing female roles where they’re not controlled, you know what I mean?  Outside a very mannered, controlled social role, you’re able to lift the lid off the box. I think it’s interesting that in a lot of contemporary horrors women haven’t been afforded that kind of emotional rage…

 

Absolutely, because women are traditionally seen just as a function of the male lead….

 

Yeah, in the past, those going to see horrors would have been male and that’s not necessarily the case anymore. It might be the case in terms of the aficionados, the absolute anoraks of horror, but the female part of the audience has shot up a lot.

 

So that’s the reason you would explore the idea of female protagonists rather than you being a feminist?

 

[Laughs] No, no.  Not that, but it’s just an observation about the Asian films…

 

And what Asian films in particular would have resonated with you?

 

I think some of the main ones Dark Water, Ring, The Grudge, and Two Sisters as well, in terms of atmosphere and design.  And then Onibaba in terms of the visual side, and then there’s a whole series of ones like Whispering Stairs, and lots of the kind of B-movie, schlockier ones, that aren’t necessarily great films, but have lots of great sequences in them.  So I watched a lot of those for the atmosphere.

 

I noticed in the production notes that Lindsey Haun said when you were casting her you sent her I Went Down by way of familiarising her with your work.  Is that your favourite amongst your own films?

 

Well in different ways, but probably Ailsa and I Went Down. I have certain affection for them…

 

Were they good to you, those films?

 

I think different films have different strengths.  For example in Ireland, Man About Dog did critically badly, but for me I got a great kick out of it because people went to see it. Some people who’d never been to see an Irish film went to see it and it just gave them a laugh and they enjoyed it and that for me is an important thing. And by that I don’t mean that everything has to do hugely well at the box office, but if it has a resonance, if it finds an audience that’s a great thing. In terms of Man About Dog as an action comedy, I think it’s quite well put together.  But probably, the things you do earliest you develop an affection for.

 

You’ve mentioned Man About Dog a few times, did that hurt when it wasn’t received as well as you might have hoped?

 

Em. It annoys you sometimes, but because it did well at the box office it kind of mediates that a lot.

 

But do you not have the sense as a filmmaker, that you just want other people to like it? 

 

It’s not the approval, what I would say is that you want it to be treated fairly…

 

And you felt that that wasn’t the case?

 

I think at times it wasn’t, because I think sometimes it wasn’t reviewed for what it was.

 

Within its genre you mean?

 

Yeah. It was very specifically for a young male audience, like films like Road Trip and American Pie and all that kind of thing. I’m not saying it was the same as those films, but it was in that area and I don’t think it was treated quite in the same way.  And I think maybe there’s an expectation in Ireland for an Irish film that’s going out, that it will please everybody and that it will catch everybody in a certain way.  And I think maybe there was a disappointment that it wasn’t another I Went Down. By all means, I’m sure a lot of comments about it might be very true, but I think quite a few missed what the point of it was.  And I think also we were maybe a little bit unlucky, because I think some of the reviewers who’d seen it and liked it didn’t end up being the ones that reviewed it in the end.  So you know, it’s a numbers game. Out of five to ten significant reviews, two of those could’ve gone a different way. Then, you know, it wouldn’t have felt quite as harsh.  But you make your movie, you learn from it, and you move on.

 

Are you saying that if the Irish film community want the standard of Irish film to improve they have to stop viewing them as peculiarly Irish, and view them on an international scale where something like that would be compared to American Pie as opposed to I Went Down?

 

Or Intermission or another Irish film…

 

Right, yeah, something within the same genre as opposed to within the body of work of the filmmaker or Irish cinema in general.

 

I mean Jesus Christ, you know there’s a very wide range of films I might enjoy depending on what mood I’m in. Equally, in terms of the filmmaking community, Damien O’Donnell might make something brilliant in a way that I could never do.  Like I think Heartlands was a fantastic film…

 

And finally, you seemed very comfortable with the subject matter of Shrooms, did you ever have a period in your life where you did a lot of mushrooms?

 

No [laughs] I didn’t.  But there were other people involved in the project who definitely supplemented my knowledge…

 

This article originally appeared in Film Ireland Magazine, Issue 119 in 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating 25 years of Film Ireland magazine, Exhibition Piece 5 – Issue 39 Feb/Mar 1994 ‘Low Fat Filmmaking’ interview with ‘Ailsa’ Producer Ed Guiney and Director Paddy Breathnach

 

Dearbhla Regan talks to director Paddy Breathnach and producer Ed Guiney about their experiences making Ailsa a psychological drama set in Dublin.

Paddy Breathnach went on to direct the acclaimed I Went Down, Man About Dog amongst others, while Ed Guiney founded Element Pictures (The Wind That Shakes The BarleyThe GuardGarage) with Andrew Lowe.

This article appeared in Film Ireland issue 39 Feb/Mar 1994 which was edited by Hugh Linehan.

To view 150 DPI high res version of this article click here.

 

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