Review: Brightburn

DIR: David Yarovesky • WRI: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn • DOP: Michael Dallatorre • ED: Andrew S. Eisen, Peter Gvozdas • PRO: James Gunn, Kenneth Huang • DES: Patrick M. Sullivan Jr. • MUS:Tim Williams • CAST: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones

What if Superman came down to Earth but was evil is one of the most ingenious ideas for a film in recent memory. In fact, it’s such a great premise that even when the James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) produced Brightburn doesn’t maximise on it fully, it remains an impressive piece of work as both a horror and superhero flick.

In all but name, the figure at the centre of the movie is Superman. Brightburn opens with married couple Kyle (David Denman) and Tori (Elizabeth Banks) about to have sex. Books scattered across their house reveal they are having trouble conceiving. Suddenly, a meteorite falls from the sky, landing outside their window in the title town in Kansas. Approaching it further, the two discover a small spaceship housing a human-looking alien baby boy. Naming him Brandon, they decide to raise him as their own – telling people, including their new son, he was adopted.

We then cut forward about 12 years later. Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) is now an awkward teenager. He’s not mature enough to process his feelings for a girl in his class and is struggling with a nagging feeling that he is different. At night, meanwhile, the teen finds himself caught in trances – ones which lure him to an ominous red glowing object locked in his family’s barn. Soon after these occurrences, Brandon discovers he has super-human strength. Coupled with his already blossoming teen resentment, the realisation his parents lied to him about his origins leads him on the path to evil.

The film is a game of two halves. The first is strong. Director David Yarovesky effectively mimics the idyllic looking Americana heartland of Zach Snyder’s first and best Superman adaptation Man of Steel. The script by James Gunn’s cousins Brian and Mark Gunn during this portion is well-observed, capturing the awkwardness of adolescence. It also manages to mask exposition within natural sounding conversations between Kyle, Tori and Brandon, pushing the plot forward while giving viewers a chance to enjoy the central family at their happiest.

It’s down to this section that when things start getting creepy, it is very exciting and tense because we like the characters. The great score by Timothy Williams – blending classic superhero-like orchestral music with darker synth sounds – grows more menacing. The sound mixing – emphasising at key moments scraping metal and strange alien whispers – heightens in intensity.

What’s also particularly great about the first half is how it links Brandon’s experiences of puberty with his superpowers. After all, every person’s body changes as they become a teenager. During this time, plenty think they are truly different and misunderstood. Plus, if Superman discovered as a bullied teen with various complexes that he was capable of flinging a lawnmower over 100 yards or could shoot lasers out of his eyes, it would probably warp his mind.

For instance, Kyle and Tori find a bunch of lad mags hidden under Brandon’s bed. Joking about it, they flick through them and are shocked to come across medical photos of bodies cut open – as if their child was studying human anatomy. Believing it to be a weird teen thing, Kyle decides to give his alien kid ‘the talk’, resulting in an awkward pitch-black father and son scene for the ages.

That said, as the film heads into its second half, a significant plot-point reveals Brandon is actually being manipulated into embracing his darker side. As such, much of the movie’s emphasis on the difficulties of adolescence falls by the wayside. From that point on, Brightburn essentially downgrades into a slasher flick – complete with supporting characters making dumb decisions – but with young Superman instead of Michael Myers.

This section is still good. Dunn as the lead is effectively creepy delivering villainous threats – which he can totally deliver on – but in an unbroken, unconfident 12-year-old voice. Yarovesky and the Gunn’s keep Brandon’s powers vague so that when the kills do come, they surprise. During these stylish stalking sequences, the director uses red as a motif – Brandon’s eyes which change colour when he’s angry, car lights on a dark road or most impressively the point of view of a character who’s had one eye punctured with glass – the blood effecting her vision.

At the same time, you are still emotionally invested in Kyle and Tori. As the bodies pile up, a schism occurs between them. Tori defends her son, tragically believing him incapable of the murders. However, Kyle grows more and more terrified of his child, with Denman giving a great anxiety-drenched performance.

Brightburn will probably draw comparisons to other darker superhero flicks like Chronicle or Split. However, the movie it most reminded me of was The Belko Experiment, another film which James Gunn helped gestate but did not make. Like that horror, Brightburn takes a cool premise and executes it in a blackly fun but nihilistic manner. That said, you can tell why Gunn didn’t direct both himself. The two – while solid – don’t fully capitalise on their premises, ones which after being established can only lead to one end.

Stephen Porzio


90′ 12″
16 (see IFCO for details)
Brightburn is released 21st June 2019

Brightburn – Official Website


Review: Little

DIR: Tina Gordon • WRI: Tina Gordon, Tracy Oliver • PRO: Kenya Barris, James Lopez, Will Packer • ED: David Moritz • DES: Keith Brian Burns • MUS: Germaine Franco • CAST: Justin Hartley, Regina Hall, Marsai Martin

Little pits its three gifted comedic actors against the conventions of mainstream Hollywood comedies. In the battle what’s left is a middling film with some intermittently very funny scenes. It does not reach the highs of say Girls Trip or Spy but ranks above dreck like Identity Thief or The Change-Up.

Rising star Issa Rae (HBO’s Insecure) plays April, the overworked assistant to Scary Movie’s Regina Hall’s Jordan, a ruthless highly-strung tech mogul. As a result of being bullied as a child, the boss has grown cruel, treating everyone at her office like trash. After Jordan berates the daughter of a street vendor who made her angry, the young girl places a spell on her. The boss wakes up the next morning in the body of her young self, played by Black-ish’s Marsai Martin.

Based on an idea by its 14-year-old lead and executive producer, Little works best as a star vehicle for Martin and Rae. The film really comes alive in its middle portion, putting April and young Jordan together for a string of misadventures – such as having to deal with a child protective service agent (the great Rachel Dratch). It’s always funny when children act like grown-ups and Martin manages to charm while nailing the ‘take no prisoners’ attitude of her adult self. Bounce that against the perpetually cheery Rae and it’s a winning combination.

However, like a lot of plot-driven comedy, somewhere along the way the jokes grow infrequent. This is because the movie starts hammering home its simple message – that adults should embrace their inner child more as kids are purer and more idealistic. Concluding with Jordan taking part in the same talent show that led her to be bullied in the past, performing one of the movie’s many dance routines, the viewer just wishes that time was seeded to more of Martin and Rae’s witty banter.

There’s also other issues like the completely redundant bookending narration by Regina Hall and the fact that even before the magical sub-plot is introduced, nothing in the movie feels rooted in any tangible reality. In regards the latter, if anyone acted like Hall’s Jordan in real life they would be arrested. While this is forgivable as Little is a fantastical comedy, it’s hard not to feel that if the movie made adult Jordan feel even slightly realistic and had her tech company offices resemble a real-life workplace, the viewer might relate more to Little’s characters by the time the shift into fantasy comes.

Lacking gross-out gags, the movie will appeal to all audiences – something uncommon in the landscape of modern Hollywood comedies. If you are looking for a light movie where talented comediens dress in the most fabulous clothes, Little is a fine way to spend about 100 minutes.

Stephen Porzio

108 minutes

12A (see IFCO for details)

Little is released 12th April 2019

Little – Official Website


Review of Irish Film @ DIFF 2019: Dark Lies the Island

Stephen Porzio takes on the Mannions in Dark Lies the Island.

Martin and John Michael McDonagh better watch out. Another Irish literary figure has made the jump to the silver screen, bringing something fresh to the country’s trademark dark comedies.

Dark Lies the Island sees author Kevin Barry (City of Bohane, Beatlebone) team up with Irish directing old pro Ian Fitzgibbon (Moone Boy, Perrier’s Bounty) for a pitch-black comedy drama based on characters which appeared in various of the writer’s short stories. Charlie Murphy’s Sarah narrates. She is a bored, checked-out housewife to the much older and rich Daddy Mannion (Pat Shortt). Through a chain of businesses, he pretty much runs the sleepy town of Dromord in which the action takes place.

Daddy has two kids from his first marriage. There’s Martin (Moe Dunford), a weak womaniser filling the Fredo role and Doggy (Peter Coonan), someone who went from having a bright future to being an agoraphobe running a dating service from a caravan in the woods. Throughout the drama, these characters – along with Tommy Tiernan’s mysterious newcomer to Drumord and a pair of cousins in debt to Doggy – all converge in a climax where past histories and repressed trauma come to light.

At first, Dark Lies the Island feels like another Perrier’s Bounty, an enjoyable if forgettable sub-Tarantino comedy noir given an Irish flavour. After all, the ingredients for such are in place – pulpy narration, a seemingly scary psychopath in Doggy, eccentric locals.

Yet, as the movie continues and the plot gets increasingly bizarre and dark, one realises that Barry is doing something truly different. He is taking fantastical, heightened tropes that film fans like but is using them to explore contemporary themes like mental health and how patterns of emotional abuse develop within families.

Shot dreamily by terrific cinematographer Cathal Watters, the fictional town of Dromord (its palindromic spelling reflective of its purgatorial nature) is not meant to be interpreted as a real place. Neighbouring a lake – in which we often see ominous fog rolling alongside – it’s symbolic of Doggy, Martin and Sarah’s mental state. These are people living under the dark cloud of the sinister tyrannical Daddy, a nasty weak man who gets his kicks making others feel small.

While these characters all seemed like clichés at the beginning of the film, Barry’s script thoughtfully, as it continues, explores why these people have taken to these almost assigned roles, touching, at the same time, upon sins of Ireland’s past. While the climactic event is somewhat inevitable and all the characters outside the Mannion’s immediate circle feel slightly extraneous, it’s to Barry’s credit that by the end of Dark Lies the Island, the movie feels far less Grindhouse than it does Gothic. This reviewer wouldn’t be surprised if the writer eventually makes the transition to director.


Dark Lies the Island screened on Wednesday, 27th February as part of the Dublin International Film Festival (20th February – 3rd March 2019).



Review: Green Book


DIR: Peter Farrelly • WRI: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly • PRO: Jim Burke, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, Charles B. Wessler • DOP: Sean Porter • ED: Patrick J. Don Vito • DES: Tim Galvin • MUS: Kris Bowers • CAST: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini

Surprise winner at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival – beating the much hyped A Star is Born, If Beale Street Could Talk and Roma – was Green Book from Peter Farrelly, director of Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. However, its victory is less shocking having seen the movie, which feels like an old-school throwback to the feel-good comedy-dramas the Oscars used to reward.

Based on a true story and set in 1962, Viggo Mortensen stars as Frank ‘Tony Lip’ Vallelonga, a New York bouncer and famed ‘bullshit artist’. After his nightclub is closed for renovations, he lands a job as driver and security for famed black pianist Don Shirley (Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali). Together the two tour America’s deep south where Shirley faces repeated racist abuse. The title derives from the 20th century guidebook for black travellers to help them find motels and restaurants which would accept them.

Though featuring handsome period décor, Green Book is not the most formally ambitious film. Instead, it’s essentially a character piece, centring on the chalk and cheese relationship between Don and Tony. On this level, the comedy-drama soars. If you are going to cast someone to play the biggest American-Italian stereotype ever – although to be fair the real-life Lip did wind up being cast in The Sopranos and writing a cookbook called Shut Up and Eat! – get Viggo Mortenson. The Lord of the Rings actor went impressively method with the role putting on 50 pounds. It shows with the Danish-American feeling remarkably comfortable in his character’s skin, even getting an opportunity to flex his fluency in Italian.

Meanwhile, Mahershala Ali – whether he is playing a politician in House of Cards or a comic-book villain in Luke Cage – just exudes intelligence. He is perfect casting to play this incarnation of Shirley, a savant-like prodigy whose intellect and musical abilities alienate him from virtually everybody. Because of his wealth and education, he faces hostility from black people in a lower-social-strata. On top of this, he endures racism from the ordinary white person. The only people who seem to accept him are the rich people for whom he performs. But even then, the race element creeps in. He is not allowed to eat in the restaurants he plays, banned from using the same toilets as the guests. Ali’s performance is like a cocktail – a combination of self-confidence, quiet sadness and bubbling anger, the latter just building throughout the film.

Green Book is a film whose rough edges have been sanded off to appeal to a broader demographic. Unlike Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit set in the same decade, one doesn’t really get the sense of the fear a black person would feel being pulled over by a white cop – particularly in the Deep South. Instead, the movie is more focused on exposing the hypocrisy and pointlessness of the US’ Jim Crow laws.

As the movie flinches away from the horrors of life for black people of the era, it leans more into the potential for comedy in the odd-couple pairing of Don and Tony. While this could be cack-handed in lesser hands, Farrelly, along with co-writers Nick Vallelonga (Lip’s son) and Brian Hayes Currie, make the relationship emotionally engaging. The two begin as polar opposites, Shirley repulsed by Lip’s lack of manners, Lip irritated by Shirley’s condescending tone. However, as the movie continues, they grow closer with Don admiring Tony’s courage and Tony becoming awed with Don’s musical ability and increasingly repulsed with the way he is treated.

Occasionally, the bantering sways too broad – jokes about ‘Titsburgh’ and fried chicken could have been trimmed out – but for the most part the script is snappy. Some moments – like watching Mortensen fold-up an entire pizza and eat it like a giant calzone – are laugh out funny. And the emotional beats, such as Don helping Tony to write more elegantly to his wife (Linda Cardellini, proving once again she is quietly one of the Best Actresses around) tug on the heartstrings.

Everything about Green Book – despite the social issues of the time in which the drama is set – is designed to be an easy watch. And it is. It suffers from an overstretched third act. It annoyingly tries to add more tension and work in a scene which could be summed up as ‘not all white people’ involving a nice Caucasian cop. The latter is irritating given the fact that Tony as well as the white members in Don’s musical trio already serve to make that point. However, aside from this, Green Book’s greatest credit is it is 130 minutes long but feels like 90.

Stephen Porzio

129 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
Green Book is released 1st February 2019



Review: Vice

DIR/WRI: Adam McKay • PRO: Megan Ellison, Will Ferrell, Dede Gardner, Jason George, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay, Kevin J. Messick, Brad Pitt • DOP: Greig Fraser • ED: Hank Corwin • DES: Patrice Vermette •  MUSIC: Nicholas Britell • CAST: Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Amy Adams

An earlier teaser for Dick Cheney biopic/satire Vice featured the tagline ‘Some vices are more dangerous than others.” Writer-director Adam McKay’s is that he prefers flashy gimmicks over telling a story that works dramatically. That’s truly dangerous in that it sinks his movie.

Jumping between timelines, the film charts the life of Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), from Yale drop-out and heavy drinker to becoming Vice President to George W Bush (Sam Rockwell), during 9/11 and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

After making a name directing Will Ferrell joints, McKay’s previous film, The Big Short employed stylistic flourishes and absurd comedy in moments to jazz up its depiction of what led to the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. The joke was that one needed fourth-wall-breaking cameos from the likes of Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez to explain concepts like subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations because otherwise people would be confused or disinterested. It was fast, funny and ultimately made a salient point about how people today consume information.

Vice doubles down on these techniques without finding a reason to use them. There’s zinger-filled narration from Jesse Plemons (Game Night, Fargo), needless jumping backward and forward in time, endless stock footage inserts, shots created to look like stock-footage inserts, metatextual gags – all of which combined leave the film with no dramatic scene.

Admittedly, some of the jokes are funny on an Airplane parody level, satirising the conventions of biopics. Mid-way through the film, before being recruited to be Bush Jr’s VP, Cheney is shown in the woods with his family vowing to never return to politics. In another movie, the scene would be its closing moment and just as this realisation dawns, fake credits roll – before rewinding back to what really happened. Meanwhile, another laugh-inducing moment imagines Cheney as a Shakespearean anti-hero as he makes a key decision. He and his wife Lynne (Amy Adams wasted in what should have been a third winning collab with Bale) suddenly begin spouting lines from Richard III in a surreal sequence.

However, by overdoing his shtick, McKay constantly clips any sense of engagement in his characters by continually satirizing them. What is the point in making Bale go method and gain so much weight to authentically play Cheney, only to stymy his performance by filling every potentially engaging scene he has with a million cuts to everything from fish swimming to dices being thrown. It’s on a level with Peter Berg’s equally shoddily directed Mile 22.

One wonders whether McKay went so overboard because he realised his script – the first he wrote without a co-writer – is a mess. There’s the germ of a really interesting concept there – that Cheney replaced his vice for drinking with one for power, ignited by working for controversial former US Secretary of Defence and congressman Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carrell, the only actor given a chance to sink his teeth into his slimy character) during the Nixon and Ford administrations. Cheney and Rumsfeld have no political belief, all they thirst after is power for the sake of power. This is what led Cheney to expand the powers of the Presidency so they could launch a war against Iraq to seize their oil without the US Congress’ consent. It’s his drive which has led to the countless deaths both of US troops and citizens of the countries they invaded.

However, someone like Aaron Sorkin or Mark Boal or even satirists like Armando Iannucci, Sam Bain or McKay’s collaborator on HBO series Succession, Jesse Armstrong, could perhaps trace that through line clearly. They could depict it in a way which emphasises the tragedy and makes Cheney interesting and fascinating if not empathetic, so that audiences are invested. The problem with Vice is that McKay clearly hates Cheney and all he stands for – implementing tax cuts for the rich, downplaying global warming, giving corporations the freedom to act as they please. Bale’s Cheney is not a character but a humourless, villainous caricature with McKay too busy pointing out all the questionable things he did in his political life to make him in anyway feel like an actual person. It doesn’t help that in Vice’s final stretch the writer-director practically lists off events like a Wikipedia entry with the Valerie Plame scandal and Cheney’s accidental shooting of a man while hunting being brought up and then tossed aside in just one line.

This reviewer has a feeling the film my have been tampered with by the studio, after realising McKay’s original take was not working. That is the only way to excuse Jesse Plemons’ narration that is so distracting for the entire film as one has no idea who he is or why he has all this information about Cheney’s life. The moment one realises his connection to the politician, takes the cake in ridiculousness, coming across as hilariously wrongheaded.

Still, McKay deserves credit for trying. Vice feels angry, flirting with timeliness. It shows that Trump is not the only thing wrong with US politics and that it has been populated with power hungry vipers since the beginning. That said, the comedy-drama is still proof that just because one feels passionately about a subject, does not automatically make it satisfying.


Stephen Porzio

132 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
Vice is released 25th January 2019




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.


Review: Venom

DIR: Ruben Fleischer • WRI: Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel • DOP: Matthew Libatique • ED: Jay Cassidy • DES: Karen Murphy • PRO: Avi Arad, Amy Pascal, Matt Tolmach • CAST: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed

The titular creature in Venom is a lot like the film itself: it wants to have its liver and eat it too.

Tom Hardy stars as Tim Pool-esque journalist, Eddie Brock. His life is good. He hosts his own show and is engaged to high-profile lawyer, Anne (Michelle Williams, having thankfully more fun and stuff to do than the typical love interest). However, when told to shoot a puff piece on Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the founder of the Life Foundation – rumoured to be testing illegally on humans and being represented in court by his fiancée – he instead makes a scene getting himself and Anne fired.

However, a few months later, Brock is approached by Dr. Skirth (Jenny Slate), a whistle-blower from Life who tells the journalist everything he accused Drake of is true. Breaking into the company’s property, he becomes infected with Venom – a malevolent alien goo which gives him super strength.

For the first forty minutes of the film, Venom is very entertaining. It takes its time establishing Brock as a lovable loser, someone who acts first and thinks later and can’t recognise how great things are until they slip away. It’s fun to see Hardy play a character who comes across like a drunker, more bumbling version of Mark Ruffalo’s Spotlight hero. Meanwhile, the relationships Brock has with the homeless woman on his street (PTA regular Melora Walters!) and the owner of grocery store he frequents often (Peggy Lu) are charming, feeling like the intimate small-scale world building one would see on Netflix’s Daredevil.

The pacing is strong during this section with the events leading Hardy to become infused with Venom ringing true. Meanwhile, the portion of the movie whereby Brock is sick but doesn’t realise he has an alien parasite in him are really strange and funny, feeling like the perversely entertaining creature flick Hardy and director Ruben Fleischer promised. He eats frozen chicken tenders and literal trash. Still not satisfied, he goes into the restaurant where his ex and her new boyfriend (Reid Scott) are dining and bites the heads off lobsters in a scene worthy of the price of admission.

However, whereas one wants the film to stay at this smaller, intimate level, with a budget of $100 million and pressure for this to be the first in Sony’s rival MCU, the movie succumbs to many of the problems with superhero flicks, most notably weightless CGI and a bland villain.

Fleischer just doesn’t have the directing chops to make two glops of black goo with teeth flicking at each other exciting or tangible in anyway – which unfortunately is much of the movie’s second half.

Also, Riz Ahmed in the stronger early portion of the movie comes across as a realistic, complex villain – who truly believes what he is doing is not only correct but has to be done. However, the plot mechanics to get him infected with other alien goo are very creaky. Meanwhile, once he does, viewers lose all interest in him as a character as he turns into a very generic baddie.

Instead of spending $100 million, one wishes Sony had given a promising filmmaker $10 million. That way they could make the weird creature movie Hardy is clearly interested in without having to homogenise and dull it in the way one must if they want to gross $300 million at the box-office. For example, look at Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade, another sci-fi about a Tom Hardy lookalike who becomes infused with a villainous inner voice driving him to kill. It cost $4 million, is set in the future and is not only a better Venom movie, it looks better.

Still, Venom is not the failure people predicted. It’s nowhere near the level of 2015’s Fantastic Four or even 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse and the bits that were cringey in the trailer play much better in the film with context. For the most part, Venom is very watchable and in some sections goddamn delightful. Yet, these moments make one wish the movie was better as a whole.

Stephen Porzio

112 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
Venom is released 3rd October 2018




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

Alan Gilsenan, Writer / Director of ‘Unless’ & ‘The Meeting’


Stephen Porzio met up with filmmaker Alan Gilsenan to chat about his two films set for Irish cinemas this year.

Imagine being a director and getting trapped by snow at home, the day your new film will premiere. This happened to Irish filmmaker Alan Gilsenan, leading him to walk from the Wicklow Mountains all the way to Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema.

“I kind of enjoyed it. It was like a strange pilgrimage”, he remarks. His story reminds me of fellow filmmaker Werner Herzog, who famously walked from Munich to Paris to visit a dying friend. Gilsenan jokes: “Jesus, I’d say that’s where the likeness ends but if we could even approach old Herzog that’d be fine for me”.

Following last year’s acclaimed documentary Meetings with Ivor, Gilsenan is here at the Filmbase office to promote the first of two dramas he directed being released this year. Out on the 16th March is the Canadian-set Unless, starring Catherine Keener as an author whose daughter (Hannah Gross, Netflix’s Mindhunter) decides to drop out of college and live on the streets.

Attending the press screening of Unless was the first time I left my house after the Beast from the East. What am I presented with but a cold, drippy, snowy Ontario setting.

“I’d always pride myself as someone who doesn’t really feel the cold. But I was in Toronto and thought ‘this is just unbearable’ … I heard some of the sparks and the grips talking about how it was the coldest Winter in Toronto in 150 years the March we shot,” Gilsenan laughs.

Continuing he says: “I’d go into the catering truck just to be warm for five minutes. The other thing is I envisaged a Toronto covered in snow but when it gets to those temperatures, the snow doesn’t fall. It’s just ice. We were putting in fake snow even though it was -35 degrees.”

Adapted from a novel from Pulitzer Prize-Winner Carol Shields, writer-director Gilsenan translates the stream-of-consciousness prose of the source to the screen. While the book is about a mother’s reaction to her child wanting to live on the street, the film centres on the mystery of why the heroine’s daughter, Norah, acts in such a manner.

On adapting the novel, Gilsenan says: “[The film] is a meditation. The source was Carol Shields’ book … Sometimes I’d go back to [it] to check something and think ‘what was I thinking’. It’s the most unlikely film. The book is like Virginia Woolf. It all happens in her head.”

Many of Shields’ themes remain, the cynicism of the modern world and a desire to subvert common depictions of the ‘dysfunctional’ middle-class family. However, a key aspect of the book was excised in the transition to the big screen.

“I think partly the book is a reflection about being a woman in the world. I probably didn’t emphasise it quite as much. I’m also aware that with an extraordinary female cast and Emer Reynolds editing the film and Celiana Cárdenas as the DOP, I’m the only weak link.” He adds thoughtfully: “Probably should have been a woman who made it”.

Unless provides a realistic depiction of homelessness. I ask Gilsenan if the rise of people living on the streets in Ireland led him to choose the subject matter: “Maybe at some subliminal level … It did really bring home the reality of homelessness. The bitter cold … We were in Toronto when quite a few homeless people froze to death. We’ve started to see that in Dublin.”

I note that the scenes where Norah is living on the street felt authentic. “Some of the stuff we shot with Hannah on long lenses is on active streets. In the scene where the frat boys are hassling her – a young woman – it’s actually in the film – got very upset. That was real,” Gilsenan replies.

Gilsenan’s second film in 2018 The Meeting also feels eerily topical, focusing on the true story of a young rape victim confronting her attacker. Scheduled for a September release, the drama premiered at ADIFF last month. Before this interview, I couldn’t find who starred in the movie.

“Alva Griffith, the woman [it is based on] plays herself. It was a deliberate decision by ADIFF not to put the cast in. We felt the film will always be talked about in terms of Alva playing herself. We thought it would be nice to have a screening where that isn’t the issue.” He adds: “A lot people said to me after, ‘Who’s the actress. She’s great.’”

Clint Eastwood made a similar casting decision in his 2018 film The 15:17 to Paris. “Clint copies me in everything. I keep saying to him ‘Clint, stop’”, Gilsenan laughs.

Playing the assailant in The Meeting is Terry O’Neill, an actor who recently appeared in IFTA-winner Michael Inside. Between this and Hannah Gross recently working with David Fincher on Mindhunter, Gilsenan has a knack for discovering great talent. “Well you hope … I think Hannah’s wonderful and Terry is a real star.”

Next, Gilsenan plans a ‘strange experimental film inspired by Joyce’s Ulysses’. He is elusive when I ask if he will return to documentaries: “I quite like the documentary area, I like the drama. I like the more experimental stuff too.” A bit like Werner Herzog.


Unless is in Irish cinemas from 16th March 2018

The Meeting will open in Irish cinemas later this year



Review of Irish Film @ ADIFF 2018: The Delinquent Season

Stephen Porzio attends a dinner party.

The Delinquent Season is a surprisingly old-fashioned drama told with skill by debut director and accomplished playwright Mark O’Rowe (screenwriter on Intermission). The film centres on two couples Jim (Cillian Murphy – Dunkirk, Peaky Blinders) and Daniele (Eva Birthistle – Wake Wood); Chris (Andrew Scott – Sherlock, Spectre) and Yvonne (Catherine Walker – A Dark Song). At first, the relationships appear strong. However, as typical with these types of dramas, cracks soon emerge. Jim, a writer working from home, has succumbed to the ennui of being a stay-at-home dad. Meanwhile, Yvonne’s relationship with her husband has grown volatile. After Chris hits her during a heated argument, Yvonne spends the night at Jim and Danielle’s. When Jim and Yvonne are left alone together, they start to have an affair.

From this point on, The Delinquent Season threads a similar line to movies like Closer, Fatal Attraction and Match Point (O’Rowe even inserts a witty line where Jim comments how clichéd it is) but in a more realist manner. Like these films, the viewer is essentially watching unlikeable characters for two hours. That said, what makes the movie engrossing is the authentic south-Dublin setting and O’Rowe’s knack for capturing how people really talk (a scene revolving around putting out the bins is well-observed). These elements make it easier to identify with the characters. One does not necessarily like Jim and Yvonne. However, the drama lends the question; If you were married but met someone with whom you shared a powerful connection, what would you do?

The film, as its title suggests, manages to capture both the thrill of doing something transgressive but also the pressure to hide it from others. The scenes of intimacy are raw and sensual but forever tinged with the knowledge that things will not end well. Even when Jim and Yvonne’s actions come to light, the drama continues to explore the messy fallout. O’Rowe highlights how promises made in the throws of passions can feel perfect and ideal but can never truly be fulfilled, moving towards a denouement which is moving but also reinforces the idea of life as unpredictable.

O’Rowe comfortably adapts to the cinematic medium with some nice tracking shots – following Jim as he runs errands with his children on a dull, grey South Dublin morning (reinforcing that feeling of ennui) – and a creepy dream sequence. That said, his theatre roots remain in his dialogue, particularly one or two monologues delivered by Andrew Scott’s character. This theatricality is not a major problem when one has actors of such a high calibre. Murphy brings both charisma and naturalism to his character, who is perhaps the most ordinary, normal man he has ever played. Scott evokes a surprising amount of empathy despite his character’s early heinous actions. He tears into monologues, shedding tears and spittle, in a way which makes one wish they saw his Hamlet on stage.

Birthistle, although slightly underused, is excellent. Playing the only properly decent character of the foursome, she brings a coolness and strength to Daniele – as evident by a scene where she berates Chris directly to his face and without hesitation for hitting her friend. However, the show-stopper is Walker who manages to be vulnerable, sensual and three-dimensional in a turn which will no doubt put her on many people’s radar.


The Delinquent Season screened on Saturday 3rd March as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (21 February – 4th March).



Review of Irish Film @ ADIFF 2018: Kissing Candice

Stephen Porzio puckers up at the 2018 Audi Dublin International Film Festival for Aoife McArdle’s Kissing Candice. 

I recently criticised The Lodgers for being an Irish genre movie that failed to capitalise on the country’s rich history. For a gothic horror set in the 1920s, it felt uninterested in engaging with Ireland’s Battle for Independence or Civil War, events which had they been a greater part of the story would have made it richer. Thankfully, Kissing Candice – a graphic novel-esque tale of cops and robbers and young lovers caught in the crossfire set in Northern Ireland – does a better job at this. The debut from writer-director Aoife McArdle (U2’s Every Breaking Wave music video) takes the time to acknowledge The Troubles and the impact the era had on the generation that followed.

An incredibly expressive Ann Skelly (Red Rock, Rebellion) stars as Candice, a 17-year-old living in a one-horse-town with her troubled policeman father, Donal (The Fall’s John Lynch), and disconnected mother, Debbie (Lydia McGuinness, who had a great role in another ADIFF premiere, The Delinquent Season). Both dealing with her blossoming sexuality and severe seizures, Candice retreats into dreams. While dreaming, she has visions of man who she does not know but feels inexplicably drawn to.

Things get complicated, however, when Candice meets literally the man from her dreams, Jacob (Ryan Lincoln), a former member of a ruthless local gang who Donal wants to put behind bars. Having turned on his partners in crime, the criminals want revenge – targeting Candice in the process.

With its neo-noir aesthetic, its sensorial depiction of female sexual desire and its hallucinatory representation of the journey from teen to adult, Kissing Candice is part Streets of Fire, part Raw and part Donnie Darko. However, what keeps the movie feeling fresh and exciting, as opposed to derivative, is Aoife McArdle’s direction. Coming from a music video background, she emphasises mood and visuals over the story. Kissing Candice could be viewed without audio, and audiences would still be transfixed by its imagery; a burning toy house in the middle of a road, a dream in which a man walks stoically as his arm is on fire, a party-goer’s creepy mask at a neon-drenched nightmare rave.

While the glossy music video aesthetic for the most part works to the film’s favour, occasionally Kissing Candice feel more like long-form accompaniment to Jon Clarke’s pulsating score. This is particularly noticeable in the movie’s oblique denouement which would work better in an experimental music promo than a narrative feature.

Still, McArdle deserves credit for doing something revelatory. She manages to convey the stark brutal reality of living in some parts of Ireland but in a way which looks as incredible as a Michael Mann joint. Also, as mentioned in the first paragraph, McArdle seems to be making a commentary on the lasting impact on The Troubles. The murderous gangs that populate Kissing Candice, Donal remarks, are the sons of those who fought in the conflict. Perhaps, the violence is not quite over yet.


Kissing Candice screened on Friday, 2nd March 2018 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (21 February – 4th March).







Irish Film Review: The Lodgers

DIR: Brian O’Malley •  WRI: David Turpin • PRO: Julianne Forde, Ruth Treacy  DOP: Richard Kendrick • ED: Tony Kearns • MUS: Kevin Murphy, Stephen Shannon, David Turpin • DES: Michael Corenblith • CAST: Charlotte Vega, David Bradley, Bill Milner


The Lodgers is a film to laud on concept not execution. It’s an effort to give the Irish literary Gothicism of Bram Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu its long overdue chance to spook on the big screen. Still, while the movie certainly conjures enough atmosphere to be in line with a ‘Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural’ paperback, it’s less successful in character and story.

Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) are Anglo-Irish twins living in a debilitated mansion in 1920’s rural Ireland. The house exudes a strange curse over them: they must be in bed by midnight; they may not permit an outsider past the threshold; if one attempts to escape, the life of the other is placed in jeopardy. The return of Irish WWI soldier, Sean (Eugene Simon), may lead Rachel to break these rules. Falling in love, the two plan an escape from the village. However, the increasingly demented Edward and the spirits of the house have other ideas.

Opening with the virginial white gowned Rachel fleeing in terror through the woods, director Brian O’Malley sets the tone well early. He uses the rugged nature of the Irish countryside to his advantage, crafting a Gothic landscape that feels tangible. With its small villages, crumbling Victorian mansions, fog filled forests – the film looks both authentic and fantastical. O’Malley also stages a handful of eye-catching scenes, most involving Sean’s missing leg – one a terrifically OTT phallic metaphor, the other a creepily uncanny dream sequence.

Yet, while the atmosphere seems like it was agonised over, the script by David Turpin less so. It has its moments – the anachronistic dialogue works, Sean fighting in WWI establishes him as someone heroic who gets caught in other people’s causes like Sarah’s. However, there is a constant sense that the film could do more to link its Gothicism with its post-1916 Ireland setting. For instance, no one comments on the Protestant landowner Sarah becoming romantically involved with the Catholic village-boy Sean.

No character has any depth. Rachel, Edward and Simon never feel like anything other than the damsel, the creep and the hero. This may not be a big problem with charismatic performers (see Crimson Peak). Yet, the lead three actors in The Lodgers are only serviceable, struggling to inject personality into their roles.

Meanwhile, The Lodgers’ 92-minute running time leaves the film feeling truncated. The moments of terror happen so fast and suddenly, there is never much of a chance for the movie to build any sustained dread. It also doesn’t give its well-chosen supporting cast comprising of Deirdre O’Kane, David Bradley and an excellent Moe Dunford (as Sean’s bully, he brings a sizable amount of menace to such a small role) much time to shine.

Overall, The Lodgers is a mixed bag. It’s too atmospheric and attractive to call a missed opportunity, yet too slight and light on scares to leave much of an impression. For fans of the gothic, it will satisfy their cravings. At least, until Lenny Abrahamson’s The Little Stranger comes out later in the year.

Stephen Porzio

15A (See IFCO for details)

93 minutes
The Lodgers is released 7th March 2018

 The Lodgers – Official Website





Review: Gringo

DIR: Nash Edgerton • WRI: Anthony Tambakis, Matthew Stone • PRO: A.J. Dix, Nash Edgerton, Beth Kono, Anthony Tambakis, Charlize Theron, Rebecca Yeldham  DOP: Eduard Grau • ED: Luke Doolan, David Rennie, Tatiana S. Riegel • MUS: Christophe Beck • DES: Gary Freeman • CAST: David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton


When entering the press screening for Gringo, I was informed of an embargo. Critics in attendance were not allowed to make their opinions about the film public until the day before its official release. This usually goes two ways: either the movie is terrible, and the studio are trying to prevent bad word of mouth affecting early box-office takings (Suicide Squad), or, it’s good and features twists the distributors do not want revealed (Alien: Covenant). Gringo, however, is an odd case. I’m both happy but slightly disappointed to report the film is fine if unremarkable. Not bad or good enough to provoke an extreme reaction, making the choice of an embargo an odd one.

Nash Edgerton (who made a solid neo-noir named The Square in 2008) directs from a script by Matthew Stone (Intolerable Cruelty) and Anthony Tambakis (Jane’s Got a Gun). David Oyelowo (Selma) stars as Harold Soyinka, a Nigerian immigrant working for a company producing medical marijuana. His boss, Rich (Nash’s brother Joel Edgerton), has dangled a promotion in front of the employee as a means of keeping him in line. On a business trip to Mexico, Harold discovers that his manager was lying about the new position and that after an impending merger, he will be laid off. Hurt, lacking money and recently estranged from his wife (Thandie Newton), Harold pretends he has been kidnapped.

Things get complicated, however, when it’s revealed Rich and his co-worker/lover Elaine (a foul-mouthed Charlize Theron) have ties to a Mexican cartel. Having promised them some of their product but not delivering, the drug dealers want what’s theirs and plan to use Harold as leverage.

To its credit, Gringo takes a complicated story (I haven’t even mentioned Sharlto Copley as Rich’s brother Mitch, a mercenary sent into Mexico to retrieve Harold, or Amanda Seyfried and Harry Treadaway as vacationers whose paths cross with the protagonist) and tells it in a brisk and pacey manner. Given Nash Edgerton’s background in stunt work, the action scenes are solid, if brief. The Mexican setting looks great while a stellar supporting cast give it their all, even if – as in Theron’s case – their character’s schtick grows tiresome.

That said, while Gringo is watchable, it doesn’t do enough to separate itself from other better comic-crime thrillers. A Mexican cartel boss who kills people if they don’t like The Beatles feels sub-Tarantino-esque. Oyelowo’s sad sack evokes memories of William H. Macy’s Fargo character. The relationship between Harold and Mitch is part In Bruges, part Midnight Run – although the actors do not have enough time to let the audience invest in their relationship. While Gringo doesn’t insult these movies by drawing elements from them, it doesn’t have much personality of its own, with both the jokes and the violence being somewhat tame.

Aside from a few satirical jokes about middle management being seen as expendable by those above them, all Gringo really has to differentiate itself from the pack is a fun, rare comic-turn in the lead from David Oyelowo. While the actor is better known for more serious fare, here he is the performer who gets the lion’s share of the laughs. Speaking in a wonderful-to-the-ears Nigerian accent, he is energetic, charming and manic. If the movie had just a little more of these qualities, it would be something special.

Stephen Porzio

15A (See IFCO for details)

110 minutes
Gringo is released 9th March 2018

Gringo  – Official Website







Review of Irish Film @ ADIFF 2018: Good Favour

Stephen Porzio wanders into Rebecca Daly’s haunting parable.

Rebecca Daly is an interesting filmmaker. In 2016 she made Mammal, a critically acclaimed Irish drama that got some recognition abroad and helped launch Barry Keoghan’s career pre-Dunkirk. With that under their belt, most writer-directors would attempt to get a big-name star in their next movie or go stateside and make something more commercial. Daly bucks this trend with Good Favour, an atmospheric religious parable set in a German Catholic community isolated by forest from the outside world.

The film begins with young man, Tom (Vincent Romeo), stumbling into the mysterious village injured. After initial hesitance from the locals, the newcomer becomes apart of the community. However, there is something eerie about the parish. A child goes missing and the leaders of the ‘compound’ hide it from the police; a sick elderly woman is refused to leave the village to get urgent hospital care; children are warned about an invisible boundary in the surrounding woods they can never cross. Meanwhile, something about Tom is strange too. His wounds do not appear to be healing and kids begin to follow him around as if he is the Pied Piper.

Good Favour is a mood piece that manages to sustain itself for most of its running time by provoking in the viewer a sense of unknown dread. Although it never reaches the same level of terror as a movie like Martha Marcy May Marlene, there is some of that film’s DNA within the drama. Daly and co-writer Glenn Montgomery find menace in the malaise. With long scenes of foreboding church sermons: “Those that don’t trust completely in God, don’t just not get his protection. They get his judgement”, and religious rituals (a prolonged scene where a young woman’s head is dunked repeatedly underwater as part of her baptism), the two appear to be highlighting how unsettling it must be to live life completely devoted to an all-powerful being.

That said, despite the film’s impressively pervasive mood, it is a little disappointing that Good Favour never sets a match to its slow petrol-leak style narrative. The whole movie feels like its building to a shocking denouement that never comes, meandering instead to the finish line. Meanwhile, one gets a sense that Daly and Montgomery wanted viewers to form their own interpretation of the events which transpire. Yet, they withhold so much information that the viewer never connects with the movie beyond its abstract sense of menace. Every character is an enigma and it’s unclear as to what the film is trying to say. For those that hated the two twists that rounded out M. Night Shyamalan’s similar in tone and setting The Village, Good Favour may quench that thirst for an open-ended art-house chiller. However, while Daly’s latest further cements her as a master of mood, a more focused and engaging story would do her well next time around.


Good Favour screened on Tuesday, 27th February as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (21 February – 4th March)




Grainne Humphreys, ADIFF Festival Director

Stephen Porzio caught up with festival director Grainne Humphreys to get a heads-up on this year’s Audi Dublin International Film Festival. 

With the prestigious Berlin Film Festival in full swing, what better time is there to shine a spotlight on Dublin’s own annual celebration of cinema, ADIFF 2018. From February 21 until March 4, over 100 movies from across the world will screen and A-listers will be in attendance. Yet, while many presume the life of a film festival organiser must be one of glamour, ADIFF director Grainne Humphreys wants to set the record straight.

“The common perception if you meet civilians, which occasionally you do [Humphreys jokes], is that they think your life is basically a yacht at Cannes and you walk on a red carpet and have dinner in very expensive restaurants. That’s not the case. I was on my first yacht in 25 years last year by complete accident”. She adds, “for anyone who thinks it’s a glamourous lifestyle… I really want to sit them in a small darkened room with a laptop and put them in front of four hours of really terrible film”

Humphreys has been running the festival for 11 years. Warm and genial, she is the opposite of what one would expect from a film festival director. One tends to think of professional cinefiles as culture snobs. While this was the case at Cannes, a festival which turned women away from screenings for not wearing high-heels and has banned Netflix movies from competing for awards, Humphreys believes the key to ADIFF’s success is down to its more ‘calm’ and ‘informal’ vibe.

“We’ve tried to shy away from the celebrity element. The festival never becomes a segregated VIP only event. [Guests] like that. They come as filmmakers.”

As if to prove her point, the festival director seems less interested in discussing the bigger names appearing at the festival, such as Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara and Cillian Murphy. Instead, the acclaimed directors and character actors scheduled to give Q&As excite her more, particularly Lynne Ramsey (We Need to Talk About Kevin) premiering her latest, You Were Never Really Here.

Phoenix, appearing at ADIFF for another premiere (Mary Magdalene), stars in Ramsey’s film as a war veteran turned contract killer. He uncovers a web of corruption while trying to save a kidnapped teen from prostitution.

Claiming You Were Never Really Here feels as immersive as the virtual reality conference ADIFF is running this year. Humphreys says excitingly about Ramsey, “That’s somebody who is really a story teller. That’s a film where I was gripped, I was moved, I was shocked and when I came out I literally was still moving around, trembling for a couple of hours after.”

Another high-profile guest is Independence Day star Bill Pullman, premiering the Western, The Ballad of Lefty Brown. Humphreys sites this as an example of ADIFF’s reputation as being less celebrity-focused paying dividends.

“It’s a small passion project. [Pullman] knows film festivals and the kind of energy and support that a festival audience can give. A lot of the time you are sending invitations out but a lot of the time [filmmakers] are looking towards film festivals to give their projects a kind of profile or positioning. They get a sense they will connect with audiences”.

What hidden gems should audiences seek out at the festival? Humphreys praises Irish documentary The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid, Belgian crime thrillers Above the Law and The Racer and the Jailbird and Indonesian film, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts. She also thinks opening-night film Black 47, a Western set during the famine, starring Hugo Weaving and Barry Keoghan, could be this year’s most successful Irish film.

However, the movie she seems most enthusiastic about is Thirst Street, an American indie from director Nathan Silver. “Nathan has been around 15 years and makes these low-budget but really clever melodramas. Thirst Street is about a female air hostess who is dumped by her boyfriend and goes to Paris. It has this wonderful whimsical aspect to it but a witty voiceover from Anjelica Houston spins it in another direction”.

To prepare for ADIFF, Humphreys watches over 30 movies a week, culminating in around 12,000 per year. This experience has left her with plenty of feedback for filmmakers.

“So often it strikes me that a lot of filmmakers don’t go to the cinema enough. If they went to the cinema, they would realise there are standards for telling a story. A lot of the time people think long, slow, boring serious movies about the weight of the world make people feel important. No. They don’t. They make them feel terrible. If you have something that makes an audience feel happy or makes them view their world differently, that’s a plus and something you mark as special”.

Talking about the current health of Irish film, Humphreys says that the quality and quantity of Irish movies has ‘doubled’ since she began as ADIFF director. She believes Irish actors and directors happy to work both internationally and domestically helps bring money into the industry, that the rise of TV has given filmmakers the ability between movies to ‘hone their craft’ and that Ireland’s four film studios keep important professionals constantly working.

Ending the interview, Humphreys states, “It used to be quite lonely going to festivals a few years ago. You’d say, ‘oh, we have a great Irish cinema’ but nobody ever knew anyone. Now we have a well-known, well-structured industry”. Perhaps, if things progress, Dublin could compete with Berlin or Cannes someday.


The 2018 Audi Dublin International Film Festival takes place from 21 February – 4 March 2018.



Preview of Irish Film @ ADIFF 2018




Review: Downsizing

DIR: Alexander Payne • WRI: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor  PRO: Jim Burke, Megan Ellison, Mark Johnson, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor  DOP: Phedon Papamichael • ED: Kevin Tent • MUS: Rolfe Kent • DES: Stefania Cella • CAST: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau

It’s always frustrating when films start off promising but lose their way as they progress. Such is the case with the dramedy Downsizing, the latest from acclaimed writer-director Alexander Payne (Sideways, Nebraska). Matt Damon stars as Paul, a working class middle-aged man whose life is stuck in a rut. However, when Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink people, he thinks becoming ‘downsized’ will give he and his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), a new lease on life. Not only could it help solve the world’s over-population problem, the government to promote the scheme ensure that one’s money goes further in communities for the small. Paul and Audrey’s $150,000 becomes $12 million in the miniature gated community, Leisure Land. Yet, when Audrey decides post-Paul’s shrinkage to not undergo the irreversible process, our protagonist is left alone and five inches tall. While in Leisure Land, a depressed Paul comes to realise that the seemingly idyllic miniature society may just be as flawed as the real world.

To its credit, the first two-thirds of Downsizing are impressive. The central concept is refreshingly unique. Payne, along with co-writer Jim Taylor, seems like he has put a lot of effort into creating the world both visually and story-wise. The mix of Michael Gondry-esque in camera-effects with sparing CGI looks delightful. Meanwhile, the themes regarding how humans often corrupt inventions originally developed for the betterment of society (e.g. dynamite) resonate. Downsizing was invented with the goal to protect the world’s resources, to help reduce pollution and stop global warming. Yet, it is not long before dictators shrink dissidents, fears of tiny immigrants and terrorists infiltrating US borders emerge and racism between those tall and small becomes an issue. That’s not even mentioning people like Dusan (Christoph Waltz in perhaps his best performance outside of a Tarantino movie), Paul’s decadent neighbour in Leisure Land. Along with his friend (Udo Kier, also fantastic), Dusan profits from shrinking and smuggling contraband goods into the miniature community.

However, just as Payne seems to be about to sink his teeth into this story destined to be a scathing satire (sort of High Rise meets Ant-Man), he loses his nerve. As Paul becomes friends with Lan Chan (Hong Chau, Inherent Vice – bringing vibrancy and energy to what could be a racial stereotype), a Vietnamese political activist jailed and downsized against her will, Downsizing devolves into an oddly earnest tale about a white middle-aged man reminded to care for others by a kind outsider inexplicably attracted to him. Not only does this feel cliched but Paul is so passive and dull. Although Damon is solid, his protagonist gets lost in the narrative, only acting in response to the actions of the far more charismatic players inhabited by Chau, Kier and Waltz. Placing either of these three characters as a lead would improve the film substantially.

By the time the final act – involving an utterly pointless excursion to Norway – rolls around, one is left wondering if Payne simply could not handle such an ambitious sci-fi premise. There are reports that the director struggled with the editing process, excising a narration by Damon’s Paul (perhaps its inclusion may have made the protagonist feel less like a spectator). These behind-the-scenes issues show in the film as characters such as Wiig’s or Jason Sudeikis’ friend to Paul just disappear from the movie.

Downsizing traverses the globe and analyses the fate of humanity. Yet while the film’s scope originally seems in keeping with this, as it continues one realises it is just another movie about a sad sack middle-aged American by the writer-director. That’s not a critique of Payne’s other work (Sideways is wonderful), but with a premise this ingenious, one wishes Downsizing as a whole was too.

Stephen Porzio

15A (See IFCO for details)

135 minutes
Downsizing is released 19th January 2018

Downsizing – Official Website



Review: The Post

DIR: Steven Spielberg • WRI: Liz Hannah, Josh Singer  PRO: Kristie Macosko Krieger, Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg  DOP: Janusz Kaminski • ED: Sarah Broshar, Michael Kahn • MUS: John Williams • DES: Rick Carter • CAST: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson

The Post, above all else, is a reminder that its director Steven Spielberg is a master at his craft. The film’s dialogue heavy screenplay by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, taking place mostly over a few days in June 1971, in lesser hands could have been stagey. However, Spielberg brings his flair for blockbuster directing to proceedings, crafting a film where the duty and potential power of a free press – represented by a mammoth old-style printing machine mighty enough to shake a building – feels as strong as a velociraptor.

The Post kicks off with military analysist Daniel Ellsberg (an excellent Matthew Rhys – The Americans) leaking files to The New York Times. The documents highlight how the US for years has been aware the Vietnam War is a lost cause but has continued to send soldiers. The paper begins to post stories based on the files. However, the expose is cut short when a court injunction sought by Richard Nixon prevents The New York Times from continuing with their expose.

Meanwhile, editor-in-chief for The Washington Post, Ben Bradlee (Spielberg’s muse Tom Hanks), is eager to get his hands on the same documents and disregard the court injunction. The assistant editor for the paper, Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk, bringing the same likeability and pathos he brought to Better Call Saul), knows Ellsberg personally and has a hunch he is behind the leak. While Bagdikian tries to locate the documents, Bradlee attempts to convince paper president Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) to ignore the injunction. Not only could this jeopardise the paper’s upcoming IPO – necessary to keep the paper solvent – Bradlee and Graham could face prison.

From the opening scene, Spielberg elevates the material. The film begins with an impressive Vietnam war action beat. Following this, The Post moves into spy-thriller mode as Ellsberg stalks the corridors of his organisation’s offices by night to steal America’s secrets or when Bradlee pays an intern to loiter around The New York Times’ newsroom to swipe a scoop. Meanwhile, as critic David Ehrlich notes, there is a Scorsese swagger to the scenes at The Washington Post’s headquarters. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski’s camera swoops around the offices at a breath-neck tempo, evoking a similar tone to films like Goodfellas or The Wolf of Wall Street. This pace works for drama, highlighting that the characters (particularly Hanks’ Bradlee) find their job – being the gatekeepers that keep democracy functioning – and its many challenges exhilarating.

The script is on-the-nose at times – I did not need to hear Carrie Coon’s journalist state that the press exists to serve the governed, not the governors (although it is great the The Leftovers actress is given a juicy monologue to sink her teeth into). That said, the screenplay does a very good job at telling a convoluted story in a way that feels succinct and easy-to-follow. Also, it is filled with interesting characters (I have not even mentioned Jesse Plemons as The Washington Post’s legal counsel, Tracy Letts and Bradley Whitford as advisors to Graham and Bruce Greenwood as Secretary of Defence Bob McNamara) and each is given a moment to shine.

The acting, as expected with Spielberg and his typically stacked casts, is universally impeccable. Tom Hanks’ brings a blend of effortless confidence but world weariness to the same role which won Jason Robards the Academy Award previously in All the President’s Men. Meanwhile Streep, although saddled with slightly more conventional material (a family tragedy, sexism), gives her best performance in years. Her character’s arc is relatively simple; someone who changes from brittle to strong, from being told what to do to someone giving orders. That said, when the switch comes, it is undeniably powerful because of Streep’s phenomenal talent.

Not only is The Post a fun and exciting movie (comparable in tone to Spielberg’s previous work Catch Me If You Can and Bridge of Spies), it is an important film in today’s climate. There are scenes in the drama where the audience hear Nixon ranting and swearing about The New York Times and The Washington Post, calling to mind Trump’s recent war on ‘fake news’.

The Post is a reminder that quality journalism should still be cherished and championed. Journalists have a duty to inform the people and have the potential to bring about a great change.

Stephen Porzio

12A (See IFCO for details)

115 minutes
The Post is released 19th January 2018

The Post – Official Website






Review: A Woman’s Life

DIR: Stéphane Brizé • WRI Stéphane Brizé Florence Vignon • PRO: Miléna Poylo, Gilles Sacuto  DOP: Antoine Héberlé • ED: Anne Klotz • MUS: Olivier Baumont • DES: Valérie Saradjian • CAST: Judith Chemla, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Yolande Moreau

A Woman’s Life poses an interesting question: can a film be forgiven for being dreary and plodding if it is trying to accurately depict an existence defined by these adjectives? Directed by Stephane Brize, the movie is an adaption of Guy de Maupassant’s 1883 novel Une Vie. Judith Chemla stars as Jeanne, a young and innocent woman who falls for Julien (rising star Swann Arlaud, The Anarchists). However, our protagonist’s husband is a terror. Not soon after the couple’s marriage, Julian impregnates their maid and after begging for forgiveness for his transgressions, also begins to have an affair with Judith’s best friend.

Brize makes the oppression and lack of agency for women in the 19th century palpable. The movie rarely changes location, with scenes taking place in the same areas of Jeanne’s house again and again – adding to the sense of confinement. An unchanged orchestral accompaniment returns throughout the movie, playing like a chorus of monotonous misery. Brize set the film in the 4:3 Academy Ratio (the same as Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights adaptation), with its square – as opposed to rectangular screen shape – claustrophobically boxing Jeanne into a life of marital servitude and imprisonment. After all, as Brize depicts, this is a time when a priest could come to a wife’s home and request that she not leave her husband, despite his many affairs.

However, these tricks, as evocative as they are, do not engage the viewer or work cinematically. Arnold’s Wuthering Heights aimed for a similarly downtrodden depiction of the 19th century. Yet, that film had a stark but savagely beautiful environment – one which managed to capture the oppressiveness of the period but in a way which felt filmic and memorable. In contrast, Brize’s film just looks dull, like a BBC made-for-TV Victorian novel adaptation. Also, last year’s Lady Macbeth took a similar story of female mistreatment set during the same time but played up its genre elements as a means of mustering excitement. Meanwhile as Brize’s film enters its second half and Jeanne continues to suffer, drained of every penny by her awful son Paul (Finnegan Oldfield, star of the amazing Nocturama), one longs for even a sliver of the edge that Macbeth had. Instead, viewers are treated to another hour of slog.

The performances are lacking. Brize’s previous film The Measure of a Man – a very good drama focusing on economic-recession victims attempting to reintegrate into the workplace – also used static shots and lack of music to capture a feeling of boredom, monotony and restlessness. However, that film had as its lead Vincent Lindon, an actor capable of adding a soul and a beating heart to the most sterile of cinematic environments. On the other hand, Judith Chemla’s performance as the lead in A Woman’s Life does not convey her character’s internal battle to the audience adequately. She begins the film hopeful and throughout the movie – through make-up and slightly greyed hair – becomes increasingly downtrodden. That is all there is to the character and Chemla never gets under Jeanne’s skin, such as why she continues to be a quiet doormat to all the male figures in her life.

A Woman’s Life is frustrating. It’s depressing and lifeless, but perhaps these faults are not only hard-wired into its source but are the reason for its success. That said, without the prose that made de Maupassant’s novel still readable 120 years after its release, Brize struggles to add a pulse to what is essentially a two-hour dirge. How this beat La La Land or Jackie for Best Film at Venice is beyond me.

Stephen Porzio

15A (See IFCO for details)

128 minutes
A Woman’s Life is released 12th January 2018

A Woman’s Life – Official Website






Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

DIR/WRI: Martin McDonagh • PRO: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Martin McDonagh  DOP: Ben Davis • ED: John Gregory • MUS: Carter Burwell • DES: Inbal Weinberg • CAST: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell

Martin McDonagh, the writer-director and playwright behind In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, returns with his most mature film yet. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, stars a never better Frances McDormand (Fargo) as Mildred, a mother whose daughter was raped and murdered. Seven months later, the police – fronted by the beloved Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and violent, racist Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) – have been unable to find the culprit. This leads Mildred to rent three billboards and put up posters as a means of keeping the case in the public eye. However, the people of Ebbing to not take kindly to the signs criticising the sheriff as Willoughby is dying.

Less comic than his previous films (although what is left is wonderfully dark), Three Billboards feels like a return to the tone of McDonagh’s early plays, particularly the tragedy within Beauty Queen of Leenane. The violence hits harder. There are no easy answers or clear-cut heroes and villains. Much of the first three quarters of the film is highlighting the darkness of the world: violence, racism, sexism, hatred and death. The kind characters – Sheriff Willoughby, billboard owner Red (another note-worthy turn by Caleb Landry Jones), Peter Dinklage’s James – all suffer while the angry and abrasive wreak havoc. At points, one even questions Mildred’s attitude, wondering whether her actions, committed out of utter anger and despair, are constructive or whether they just beget more anger.

However, this section of the drama is far from a miserable slog. McDonagh is such a talented writer that, through sheer skill at crafting dialogue and character, he makes the darkness engrossing. In fact, he even manages in the final act to transform the film into a story about forgiveness, hope and human connection.

Also worth pointing out about the finale is how certain characters completely change their attitude and perspective in a way which feels natural and not saccharine. For example, Sam Rockwell’s Dixon is such a realistically abhorrent character throughout. While watching, one thinks there is no possible way he could be redeemed. Yet, when the moment happens, one buys the transformation – on account of McDonagh’s ability for subtly foreshadowing future developments and Rockwell’s multi-layered performance.

McDonagh has come under criticism from some quarters for his perceived inability to write female characters, a critique he himself highlights in the meta-as-hell Seven Psychopaths. Here, each woman has a personality and voice, whether it be Abbie Cornish’s tragic wife of the dying Sheriff or Mildred’s ex-husband’s 19-year-old girlfriend (Samara Weaving bringing a beam of light to the dark world).

However, it’s McDormand’s show. The character of Mildred feels so well-realised and lived-in. She’s a woman who has lost the most important thing to her and cares little for how society perceives her quest for justice. There’s even a sense that the anger and determination to find her daughter’s killer is the only thing keeping her functional. McDormand matches the material and even enhances it. The Coen brothers’ muse brings physicality and venom to her acts of violence, both physical and through dialogue (a cutting monologue delivered to an interfering priest is one for the ages). Yet, she also imbues the character with a vulnerability and sensitivity in the quieter, more introspective moments.

Three Billboards may be Martin McDonagh’s most impressive work behind the camera to date. While it lacks the non-stop cracking one-liners of In Bruges or the stylised wackiness of Seven Psychopaths, in their place is a host of well-fleshed out, fascinating characters that each could be the star of their own spin-off. The themes it tackles are complex and while McDonagh may not have all the answers, the emotion he musters in the audience as he explores them perhaps tells us all we need to know.

Stephen Porzio

15A (See IFCO for details)

115 minutes
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is released 12th January 2018

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Official Website


Review: Jupiter’s Moon

DIR: Kornél Mundruczó • WRI:Kornél Mundruczó, Kata Wéber PRO: Viola Fügen, Michel Merkt, Viktória Petrányi, Michael Weber  DOP: Marcell Rév • ED: Dávid Jancsó • MUS: Jed Kurzel • DES: Márton Ágh • CAST: Merab Ninidze, Zsombor Jéger, György Cserhalmi

Those who feel worn out by the vastly over-saturated superhero genre should do themselves a favour and check out this gem from Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo (White God). Originally screened in competition at Cannes, Jupiter’s Moon begins with a group of Syrian refugees attempting to cross over to Hungary. Attacked by border patrol, a trigger-happy agent (György Cserhalmi) kills Aryan (Zsombor Jéger, a dead ringer for Gael Garcia Bernal). However, Aryan is found healing and floating in the air by Stern (Merab Ninidze) a corrupt refugee camp doctor with a tragic past. The two go on the run, using the migrant’s special powers to make cash. Yet, they are pursued by the agent who shot Aryan originally, attempting to cover his tracks.

Hollywood should come calling to Mundruczo’s door soon because he stages a handful of phenomenal scenes in Jupiter’s Moon. The opening border patrol raid, shot as an extended one-take following Aryan running through the forests at Hungary’s border, evokes memories of the muscular filmmaking of Children of Men. The levitation scenes with their swirling, gliding camera work call to the mind the dizziness of the action spectacle of Gravity. The audience see a car chase in which the camera is placed on the bonnet of a vehicle in pursuit of another and are right in the action as two cars graze against each other at full speed. Meanwhile, it all ends in an impressively staged hotel shootout that the Wachowski’s would be proud of.

Yet it is not just the action beats Mundruczo nails. A breathtaking moment sees Aryan flee from his pursuers by calmly floating down an apartment block. The audience only see the refugees’ shadow glide down the building, all the while getting glimpses into the other apartment occupants going about their day through windows in a gorgeously composed shot. If Mundruczo could accomplish so much on a Hungarian film’s budget, it boggles the mind what he could do with the financial backing of a big studio.

Cannes may have not been the correct place to premiere the movie because although it’s certainly ambitious in terms of its themes, it lacks the grace in covering them one would associate for movies in competition. The movie, in its first half, seems to be highlighting the excessive force inflicted upon refugees by Hungarian ‘border hunters’. However, later we learn that many of the immigrants Aryan travelled with were terrorists. This plot-beat blurs the message of the film (perhaps intentionally to highlight the complexity of the issues being addressed) but leaves a bad taste in automatically assuming that groups of refugees would generally include extremists.

That said, the film does possess a weighty thematic backdrop in regards its exploration of religion in today’s society. Stern, in his past, botched an operation because he was drunk and begins to see Aryan or the ‘angel’ as a way of redeeming himself. He discusses how that people live their lives today horizontally and that Aryan is a reminder to look up, to open one’s eyes to miracles around us. It’s a hopeful message, especially appreciated in these times of unrest. Although Jupiter’s Moon may not be deep enough for the Cannes’ audience, genre hounds who do not mind subtitles will get a kick out of it.

Stephen Porzio

15A (See IFCO for details)

128 minutes
Jupiter’s Moon is released 5th January 2018

 Jupiter’s Moon – Official Website





Irish Film Review: Torment

Stephen Porzio unearths Jason Figgis’ latest slice of horror, Torment, in which a man is buried alive in punishment for a heinous crime while a couple struggle to come to terms with a dreadful loss.

Jason Figgis has become a staple of the Irish independent film festival circuit. I admire his prolific nature (he makes about two or three movies as year, as well as contributing to various anthology films) and his passion for cinema. However, sometimes in the past I’ve found that his creativity has occasionally been stymied by the low-budget parameters in which he works. His output, like Urban Traffik and Don’t You Recognise Me?, is often ingeniously plotted and his themes regarding familial dysfunction, revenge and violence are consistently interesting. Yet sometimes a dodgy special effect or an amateurish performance from a supporting actor can take the viewer out of the fictional world Figgis otherwise creates very well.

In this respect Torment – his latest playing at IFI’s Horrorthon on October 29th – is a step-up from his previous work. The film focuses on two interlocking stories. Bill Fellows (Lady Macbeth) plays a man who is buried alive and taunted by a sinister disembodied voice over an intercom. Meanwhile, a married couple (played by Cora Fenton and Bryan Murray) attempt to cope with grief and loss. Over the course of the film, we come to realise how these three characters are connected.

Torment is a film which narratively plays to Figgis’ strength. It combines the high-concept plot of Don’t You Recognise Me? (a film about a documentarian who gets more than he bargained for when hired to film a young wannabe gangster’s daily activity) with the character-driven intense family drama of Urban Traffik. The result: a blend of the claustrophobia of Ryan Reynolds’ vehicle Buried with the bleak horror of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist.

The low-budget nature of the film (it’s almost all gloomy interiors and shots from inside the coffin) feels like a benefit to Figgis this time around. Not only does the plot not demand the type of special effects used in his other output but the less polished style adds a real rawness to Torment. This sensation is vital since it’s a film, without getting into spoiler territory, about the horrors of grief and violence.

The performances here are the most consistently good of Figgis’ filmography with Fenton (The Young Offenders) delivering a tour de force as a mother who has lost everything and is failing to cope with the situation. She is so good that at times it’s almost a difficult to watch because her wails of sadness feel very authentic.

This brings me to my warnings about the film. As its title suggests, it’s an incredibly bleak, often uncomfortable movie to sit through. It tackles dark, transgressive issues and their effects on people in a very serious manner – more seriously than the typical campy or genre-based Horrorthon entry. If one is looking for something light and enjoyable, I’d suggest giving Torment a miss. However, those looking for something that will stay with them and if a haunting evocation of emotional suffering sounds compelling to you, Figgis’ latest is a must.


Torment screens on Sunday,  29th October 2017 at 23.00 as part of IFI Horrorthon, October 26th to 30th 2017. 

Tickets here


You may like:

Horrorthon Podcast with Directors Jason Figgis & Mark Sheridan


Review: Call Me by Your Name

DIR: Luca Guadagnino WRI: James Ivory  PRO: Emilie Georges, Luca Guadagnino, James Ivory, Marco Morabito, Howard Rosenman, Peter Spears, Rodrigo Teixeira • DOP: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom • ED: Walter Fasano  DES: Samuel Deshors  • CAST: Armie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg

Movies rarely come more sensual and intoxicating than Call Me by Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) and written by James Ivory (Remains of the Day). Set in the 1980s, rising star Timothee Chalamet plays Elio, a 17-year-old American-Italian living in North Italy as his academic father (Michael Stuhlbarg) works on a project focused on the sensuality of Ancient Roman statues. When a 24-year-old protegee of his dad, Oliver (the always great Armie Hammer), comes to stay for the summer, it awakens confusing feelings of desire in Elio. Through look and touch, Oliver and Elio begin to develop a relationship over the season.

Call Me by Your Name has an amazingly tactile presence. Hammer and Chalamet give both soulful and physical performances. In the early portions of the drama where the two are struggling to cope with their feelings for each other – both being deliberately standoffish – they still manage to convey through subtle glance and stolen touch a live-wire spark of chemistry. They naturally inject a jolt of energy into what could have been a slow-burn first half through sheer charisma alone.

Meanwhile, when things do become more intimate, there is a blend of authenticity but also bewitching romance. Sufjan Stevens provides the soundtrack, giving the film a delicate but brittle quality – perfect for Elio and Oliver’s tentative bond. Meanwhile, Guadagnino clearly has an eye for scenic locations as this film will make one want to move to sun-drenched Italy to eat apricots and read Antonia Pozzi poems relaxing by a lake.

Adding to the tactile quality of the film is the fact that despite how heavenly the setting is and how achingly romantic, there are little moments that ring true. A brief but important example is a scene in which Elio is seen reading a Penguin Books copy of Heart of Darkness. As he is reading, the novel falls apart in his hands, something anyone who has bought that particular brand of book in a charity shop can relate to.

At 130 minutes, the film can occasionally feel a little rambling. However, I’d argue that is to Guadagnino’s strength as he has created a movie that vividly captures the feeling of a long summer. Also, just when one thinks the director may be wasting the great talents of Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire, A Serious Man), the actor gets to deliver one of the most beautifully written monologues I’ve ever seen in a film. In five minutes, the combination of the speech and delivery fills a fairly background character with such incredible depth. Yet, it’s just one of many beautiful moments one will want to re-visit in Call Me by Your Name, a work as heart-warming as it is gorgeous.

Stephen Porzio 

15A (See IFCO for details)

131 minutes
Call Me by Your Name is released 27th October 2017

Call Me by Your Name– Official Website




Irish Film Review: Return to Montauk

DIR: Volker Schlöndorff   WRI: Colm Tóibín, Volker Schlöndorff  PRO: Sidonie Dumas, Rainer Kölmel, Regina Ziegler • DOP: Jérôme Alméras • ED: Hervé Schneid DES: Sebastian Soukup  MUS: Michael Bartlett, Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh, Max Richter • CAST: Stellan Skarsgård, Nina Hoss, Bronagh Gallagher

Return to Montauk stars Stellan Skarsgård as writer Max Zorn who, while on a press tour with his girlfriend, Clara (Suzanne Wolff), in New York, attempts to connect with old flame, Rebecca (Nina Hoss – Phoenix, Homeland). Written by Colm Toibin (author of Brooklyn and The Master), it begins promisingly. It feels novelistic in story while the Manhattan setting adds a cinematic feel. The supporting cast (Jacques Audiard regular Niels Arestrup, Ireland’s own Bronagh Gallagher) feels well-chosen and international. Its depiction of the literary scene is impressive. As Skarsgård zips from book launch to public reading to drinks with other authors, one gets a sense of what it would be like to a writer in that scene. What it would be like to make a living from one’s own personal experiences, to make friendly with contemporaries who appear both jealous and in awe of you, to travel the world despite not earning a lot of money.

Sadly, while all these incidental details and literary references to Henry James, Kafka and Nabokov are intriguing – the main-plot itself is quite pedestrian – eventually devolving into a stereotypical depiction of a selfish writer, hurting those who love him, in a mid-life crisis fuelled quest. Yes, it could be possible to make an unlikeable character interesting if one can empathise somewhat or even understand him (see Showtime’s The Affair). Yet, although Skarsgård and Hoss both give fine individual performances, they have no chemistry. They need to generate enough spark to make one understand why Max would risk damaging his current relationship. However, while they are together, the whole time one is thinking about Clara due to Wolff’s warm, charasmatic turn – one which makes an on-paper dull character far more interesting and from the side-lines overshadows Skarsgård and Hoss’ performances.

While the opening passages are script heavy, co-writer and director Volker Schlondorff (the original Handmaid’s Tale adaptation) edits them with visually grand scenes of Zorn making his way through the concrete jungle of Manhattan. However, once Skarsgård and Hoss make their way to the quiet, secluded Montauk – where there characters once spent some time as lovers – any sense of cinematic sheen dissipates as the film fades into a series of theatrical monologues. The cast just talk endlessly, as if reciting passages from a Tóibín novel – something which has appeal but not in the cinematic medium.

One gets a sense, particularly with its ending, that Tóibín and Schlondorff are trying to subvert the expectations of a love-story, implying that not all meaningful relationships work out. People change and often the past should be left alone (was Max and Rebecca’s relationship really as passionate as the writer had thought?). Yet, they miss the mark – downplaying all the elements of the genre until the film just feels like a surprisingly humdrum, plodding romance.

In Return to Montawk, moments of inventiveness – Arestrup’s art-dealer and mentor figure to Zorn delivers a great passage about letting his beautiful paintings fade in the sunlight: “When I’ll be gone, they will too. I find comfort in that” – are often but fleeting. It’s main story-line is a mess, too intellectual to tug at the heart strings and too wordy to accurately capture emotion.

Stephen Porzio

15A (See IFCO for details)

106 minutes
Return to Montauk is released 8th September 2017






Irish Short Film Review: The Observer Effect

Stephen Porzio gets goosebumps watching Garret Walsh’s mystery.

Ingenuity goes a long away in a short and The Observer Effect has plenty to spare. It begins conventionally. A news report informs the viewer that there has been a wave of killings. We see a mysterious, threatening-looking man (Patrick O’Brien) stalk a woman (Vanessa Emme), someone who seems to be entering a relationship with a co-worker (Brendan Sheehan).

However, it isn’t long till writer-director Garret Walsh pulls the first of a few rugs out from under the viewer. Without entering spoiler territory, any original audience judgement of the three main characters is proven to be false – something evident when their paths collide.

Walsh’s direction enhances the atmosphere of the piece. The washed-out colour palette is starkly beautiful while also establishing a sense of gothicism. Meanwhile, the choice not to include any dialogue (the conversations between Emme and Sheehan’s characters are muted) is a brave one, stripping away any fat or filler to leave the film feeling tighter and more compact.

Moody and eerie, The Observer Effect is an effective chiller. If one came across it on horror streaming platform Shudder on a dark Halloween night, it would put them right in the festive spirit.



Irish Film Review: Maze

DIR/WRI: Stephen Burke  PRO: Brendan J. Byrne, Jane Doolan, Simon Perry • DOP: David Grennan • ED: John O’Connor  DES: Owen Power  CAST: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Barry Ward, Martin McCann


In terms of films centred around The Troubles – with 90s Jim Sheridan movies, ’71 and Hunger being the best and The Devil’s Own starring Brad Pitt perhaps the worst – Stephen Burke’s prison drama Maze is closer to the top end, on par with something like Fifty Dead Men Walking. Set in 1983, it stars Tom Vaughan Lawlor (Love/Hate’s Nidge doing an impressive Northern Irish accent) as the real-life Larry Marley, an IRA prisoner who took part in the famous hunger strike that led to the deaths of ten men including Bobby Sands (see Hunger). Following the failure of this protest, Marley is placed into the newly built Maze prison – the most seemingly secure jail in Europe at the time. The republican devises a plan to break out. However, in order to do so, he must convince his IRA superior and fellow inmate Oscar (Martin McCann – ‘71, The Survivalist) that his plan is fool-proof, survive trapped with various jailed loyalists and win the trust of world-weary prison guard Gordon Close (Barry Ward – The Fall, Jimmy’s Hall).

What Maze does impressively is blend historical context with genre filmmaking, managing to feel both important and exciting. In the same way as ’71 could be interpreted equally as a story about a Brit soldier trapped behind enemy lines and a Warriors-like tale of survival in a city where everyone wants to kill you, Maze is, at its heart, a prison movie. It hits all the beats of the sub-genre that people enjoy – the subtle scoping out of the prison perimeter, the exposing of the one weakness that can allow escape, the various precise steps necessary to facilitate a break-out.

It blends the fundamentals of the prison sub-genre with true-life stories of people affected by The Troubles. For instance, instead of the sadistic prison warden typically seen in movies all the way from Jules Dassin’s Brute Force to Shawshank Redemption, the Gordon Close character in Maze comes to symbolise that both Loyalists and Republicans were victims of The Northern Irish conflict. Both Larry and Gordon are prisoners. The two are trapped, Larry by literal prison bars and Gordon from the bars on the security system he has to install in his house following an attempted hit on his family. Both spend their days in jail and have moments where they wonder what the point of all the violence is. Larry worries if his friends’ deaths in the hunger strike were for nothing and Gordon ponders if his dedication to the Crown is worth sacrificing his family (who’ve left him after he refused to quit following the assassination attempt).

Another nice blend of the historical and the pulpy is the tentative relationship that develops between Larry and Gordon. The latter is the true flaw that the IRA member needs to exploit to escape. Larry identifies in Gordon the sadness that will cause him to let his guard down and capitalises on it, enduring hostility from the warden until he eventually warms to him. Yet, despite their relationship essentially being a ruse, there are moments where they do share a real bond such as when the two discuss their wives (Larry’s played briefly but memorably by Catastrophe’s Eileen Walsh).

The build up to the eventual escape attempt is tense. The grim, brown colour pallette functions as both an evocation of Belfast at the time and a verisimilitude booster. The editing by Handsome Devil’s John O’Connor is tight. Yet, what keeps the movie from true greatness is some two-dimensional characters (the Loyalist prisoners are dispatched from the narrative too easily for me). The prison scenes seem a little tame particularly when comparing them to Hunger which took place almost at the same time.  Plus, although Maze doesn’t take sides (adopting an appropriate war is hell attitude to The Troubles), it doesn’t communicate to the viewer anything anybody slightly versed in the conflict wouldn’t already know. Still, for fans of prison dramas or well-acted historical thrillers, Burke’s film is a very solid entry in both camps.


Stephen Porzio

15A (See IFCO for details)

92 minutes
Maze is released 22nd September 2017









Sean Breathnach, Writer/Director ‘Beyond The Woods’

Sean Breathnach (Pic: Marcin Lewandowski)

Beyond The Woods is a supernatural horror film set in an isolated house in the middle of a forest, where a gathering of friends is thrown into chaos by the opening of a mysterious fiery sinkhole. Stephen Porzio braved the woods with writer/director Sean Breathnach ahead of his debut feature screening at this year’s Underground Cinema Film Festival.


The film feels uniquely Irish. For instance, characters give serious thought about leaving their house to get more drink while bad stuff is clearly happening. Was it fun to take the American brand of horror  – confined friends being terrorised by unknown force – and place it in a distinctly Irish setting?


You know, I never thought of it that way really, but you are right in your description. It was always going to be very Irish – you have to be true to what you know, and it is set here in Ireland after all. The cottage is very Irish, and the characters are all Irish. It plays to its strengths. We wanted to appeal to an international audience but the film was always going to be an Irish film. Though we do mention ‘Police’ instead of ‘Gardaí’ just to avoid confusion abroad!



The sulphur plot-point is a really good backdrop for the film. It serves as an ominous threat, as well as a symbol for the toxicity between the characters. Where did that idea originate from?


Like all good ideas this one has a solid base in reality, believe it or not. The idea actually came from an  article I read in a newspaper. It was about a sinkhole that had opened up in China and locals were holding branches of trees over the hole and watching as they burst into flames. Some of the dialogue in the film comes directly from that article – “Gateway to hell! Fiery sinkhole opens up on Chinese mountainside spewing fumes at 792C”. I read that article at just the right time. I had the idea of the friends in the isolated house in the woods, and the dramatic conflict, and the terror, but I wanted to do something new with the horror element. Reading that article was the lightbulb moment. That’s when everything really came together.



The characters and their interactions feel quite naturalistic. How did you go about choosing your cast and did you take any steps to make sure they felt more real… maybe using improv?


I’m glad that comes across, because that was exactly what I was going for. Independent films, in particular, rise or fall based on the quality of the acting. It was my number one priority with this film – getting the right people both in front of and behind the camera. I had worked with most of the cast before on short films. I knew what they were capable of. I also crafted the characters around them. I did encourage improv, and I think it worked really well. But there isn’t as much improv there as you’d think, and that’s a testament to the quality of the acting. That being said, we didn’t stick rigidly to the dialogue on the script all the time. I had a direction for the scenes, some plot points to be hit, but if the actors found a more natural way of getting there then that’s the way we went. We did the same with the camera – we shot a lot of handheld scenes so we could follow the actors and keep things flowing. Páraic and Kieran didn’t thank me for that – I should have had a masseuse on set to take care of their backs and shoulders at the end of those long days shooting, or at the very least a hot bath – but you don’t get that stuff on an independent shoot!



Two moments in the film evoked memories of John Carpenter movies  – the mirror scene in Prince of Darkness and the driving scene in In the Mouth of Madness. Was he a conscious influence and were there any other directors whose work you were channelling?


I am a huge fan of John Carpenter, and I love In the Mouth of Madness. When I wrote the film I wasn’t thinking of any films or directors in particular, but there’s no doubt that I am influenced by the films and books I’ve enjoyed since I was a kid. Particularly the mood of those movies and books, that sense of creeping dread. The build-up of tension. Showing the audience things before our characters see them so the audience knows the danger they’re in. There are little homages in there to a few of my favourite directors, and probably a few more homages that I amn’t even aware of. I’m sure I must channel the work of many of the directors I admire in some way – you can’t help but be influenced by the greats. But, yes, it was a conscious decision to keep the mood of the film Carpenter-esque.


There’s been a new wave of very solid Irish horror cinema – just this year there’s been A Dark Song, Without Name and Nails. Why do you think there’s been such a resurgence for the genre in the country?


I don’t know is the short answer! We’ve always been a nation of storytellers, right back to Celtic times. I recall my grandad terrifying me and my sister with tales of the Ban Sidhe, haunted houses and big dogs that would appear and disappear in the fog – so there’s no doubt we have a tradition of spooky dark storytelling.  I don’t know why horror cinema has been on the rise in Ireland at the current time. But there have been a lot of great horror movies coming out of Ireland recently. Personally, I’ve enjoyed Ivan Kavanagh’s and Brian O’Malley’s work to name but a few.


Beyond The Woods screens on Sunday, 3rd September as part of the Underground Cinema Film Festival 


Buy tickets here 


The 8th Underground Cinema Film Festival takes place in the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire from August 31st to September 3rd.



Irish Short Film Review: Leisure with Dignity

Niamh McCann as Madam May Oblong

Stephen Porzio takes a look at Anne Maree Barry’s latest film work, Otium cum Dignitate ~ Leisure with Dignity, which combines her own psychogeographic walking tours of the ‘Monto’ area to create a film and exhibition that reflects historical events, whilst at the same time presenting a complex portrait of female empowerment.


Leisure with Dignity is a short film which utilises various non-typical styles of filmmaking, combining them to instill a strange, hypnotising effect on the viewer.  The experimental film (23 minutes in total) sees four characters – Madam May Oblong, Kitty D, Countess Aldborough and The Custom House – discuss their roles in society, particularly in relation to Monto, a red-light district which prospered in Dublin between the 1860s and 1920s.

Anne Maree Barry as Countess Aldborough 

Dense and multi-layered – an early reference to Joyce’s Ulysses sets the appropriate mood – Leisure with Dignity takes a moment to link the viewer to its unusual tone and pace. The opening five minutes of the short is its least compelling, feeling the most like part of a museum exhibit. Consisting of long lasting close-up shots of The Custom House – accompanied by an emotionless, icy narration – the type of filmmaking doesn’t lend itself best to the cinematic medium.

However, following this opening, Leisure with Dignity finds its feet and the rest of its running time is nothing short of compelling and entrancing. Firstly, there are two straight-to-camera monologues delivered by actors Niamh McCann and Katie Freeney, performing as a prostitute and a madam. They breathe life into the film, delivering recounts (wonderfully written by director Anne Maree Barry) of the dangers of Monto, that somehow also function as testaments to the strength of the women who worked those streets – managing to endure and survive despite the constant threat of violence.

Katie Freeney as Kitty D

Also, there’s the Countess Aldborough portion of the drama, a woman who wrote a book about homemade remedies, much of which were used by the prostitutes of Monto. This is where the short is at its most mesmerizing. Barry utilises a four-minute extreme close up of a potion being prepared in a glass as all the ingredients blend together, evoking memories of watching Freddie Quell preparing “torpedo juice” in The Master.

One could have made a more standard, completely factual documentary about Monto. Yet, that’s not what Barry did. Instead, she takes four disparate elements – parts of the history that particularly interest her – and merges them, crafting a complete image of the place and time for the viewer. One won’t come away from Leisure with Dignity knowing specific dates and facts. However, they will leave with a sensorial evocation of the period.

Otium cum Dignitate ~ Leisure With Dignity is currently screening everyday Mon-Fri 10-6 and Sat & Sun 10-5 on the first floor gallery, The LAB, Foley Street, Dublin until 3rd September 2017.

The piece is 23 minutes long and screens on a loop. 





Irish Film Review: Halal Daddy

DIR: Conor McDermottroe • WRI: Conor McDermottroe, Mark O’Halloran •  PRO: Hermann Florin, Ailish McElmeel • DOP: Mel Griffith • ED: Alexander Dittner, Constantin von Seld • DES: Conor Dennison • MUS: Matthias Weber • CAST: Sarah Bolger, Colm Meaney, Art Malik

Mark O’Halloran is a good thing for the Irish  film industry. The writer of such films as Adam & Paul, Garage and Viva, he is skilled at crafting engaging stories – ones in which the audience wholeheartedly sympathise with people whose lives seem outside the norm. With his tales of heroin addicts, individuals with intellectual disabilities and drag queens, O’Halloran deftly manages to place his viewers in his lead characters’ worlds – all while at the same time addressing socio-political issues.

O’Halloran’s latest screenplay, comedy-drama Halal Daddy (co-written with director Conor McDermottroe), does not reach the heights of his previous work. Yet, traces of his talent in depicting the lives of so-called outsiders remains. Nikesh Patel stars as Raghdan, an Indian Muslim who flees an arranged marriage orchestrated by his father, Amir (Art Malik). He finds his feet in Sligo – staying with his uncle Jamal (Paul Tylak) and his wife Doreen (Deirdre O’Kane) and forming a relationship with local girl, Maeve (Sarah Bolger, very good).

However, Raghdan’s past catches up with him when Amir journeys to Sligo – hoping to open the county’s first Halal butchers. Maeve’s father, Martin (Colm Meaney), becomes embroiled in the father-son feud when he is employed at the meat factory.

On the positive front, the film manages to mine a significant amount of pleasant humour from its culture clash premise. There is a fun comedic juxtaposition between the local Irish population delivering comments that should be offensive but with absolutely no venom or malign intent. Halal Daddy depicts a modern increasingly tolerant Ireland, but one with still some room to improve. Examples include Doreen saying to Raghdan after he’s been absent a while: “We were beginning to think you’d been radicalised” or Maeve’s younger sisters whispering the word “ISIS” loudly in the presence of her boyfriend. Even with these racially loaded comments, it’s nice that the Sligo of the film is filled with people of various ethnicities and sexual preferences – things which threaten to become issues within the drama but ultimately never do.

However, what drags the movie down is a reliance on broad gags and characters and an oddly paced narrative. Jokes about Doreen and Jamal’s Fifty Shades inspired sex-life – despite typically solid work from O’Kane – feel not only feel tired but from a different film entirely. Meanwhile, one moment the story’s focus is on Raghdan gaining his father’s acceptance, the next it’s about him trying to win his girlfriend back (the reason he lost her briefly is another creaky old-fashioned plot-point one can see a mile coming). Plus in regards the film’s denouement, the resolution of the drama has very little to do with the main conceit regarding the titular Halal with the film abandoning the abattoir plot in its final twenty minutes.

Halal Daddy is an amiable, occasionally charming movie. Yet, its not a patch on recent Irish dramas of a similar nature like Sing Street, Mad Mary or Handsome Devil. Despite its timely ethnic slant, the film – on account of some shoe-horned jokes and predictable plot-points – lacks the emotional core of these superior works. One buys into the overly perfect happy ending of Sing Street because the previous ninety or so minutes were so engaging that the viewer is invested. When Halal Daddy literally ends with a spontaneous firework display, it feels a little ridiculous because one isn’t as involved with the characters.

          Stephen Porzio

94 minutes
15A (See IFCO for details)

Halal Daddy is released 28th June 2017

Halal Daddy – Official Website







Irish Film Review: Revolutions

DIR: Laura McGann  •PRO: Ross Whitaker  • ED: Andrew Hearne • MUS: Michael Fleming 

I have a huge soft spot for films which probe niche professions, societies or communities. There is something amazing about entering into a movie knowing very little about a world and leaving feeling like one has been clued in to the everyday goings on of the people involved in a unique lifestyle. If anyone reading this is like me, Laura McGann’s documentary Revolutions is a must.

Focusing on female roller derby – a sport rarely depicted in cinema (aside from Drew Barrymore’s excellent but underseen coming-of-age drama Whip It) – the film centres upon the players who brought the game to Ireland. We follow the lives of members of the Cork City Firebirds and the Dublin Roller Girls. The two squads engage in a fierce rivalry, one made even worse by the fact they had to play together representing their country in the Roller Derby World Cup.

Part sports movie, part character study – the doc delivers exciting action scenes of the women playing the game, interpersed with fascinating vignettes regarding the personal lives of the players. Laura McGann wisely lets her subjects tell their stories and they don’t let her down. Players like the feisty Crow Jane are so candid in interviews, discussing openly the impact of the recession on her employment status, the refuge she found in the roller derby community and how her competitive nature ultimately led to a lot of strife.

It’s also amazing that many of McGann’s true-life subjects feel already like heightened fictional sports drama characters. Crow Jane – every scene appearing with a new and amazing radical hair-cut (McGann shot the movie over five years), screaming profanities at the referee and opposing managers – is a joy to follow.

Although Jane steals the movie, Dublin Roller Girls, and eventual Ireland manager, Violent Bob, gives her a run for her money. He wins hearts as someone talented but somewhat crippled with self-doubt over his inexperience in the sport, the transition between semi-professional coaching to world competitor proving too much. He is also lovingly the antithesis of his sports name, something evident early on when he tells the cameraman that when he sees his romantic partner and team player get tackled – he just wants to leap onto the pitch to see if she is alright.

However, one can understand his concern because the game seems surprisingly full-on in regards physicality. The verisimility with which McGann shoots the derby matches – ones in which players collide constantly at high speeds, often using their heads to block – leaves the viewer feeling every hit.

Like many of its subjects, Revolutions is fierce, lovable and scrappy. It’s also clear that everyone involved in the making of the doc is passionate about roller derby. The feeling is infectious.

Stephen Porzio

87 minutes

Revolutions is released 30th June 2017  


Revolutions Official Website




Laura McGann, Director of ‘Revolutions’


Irish Short Film Review: Gridlock

Stephen Porzio reflects on the Irish short film Gridlock, directed by Ian Hunt Duffy, who won a Young Directors Award in Cannes last week.

Atmospheric and tense, Ian Hunt Duffy’s short film Gridlock finds terror in the every day. Moe Dunford (so terrific in Handsome Devil) plays Eoin, a father – travelling with his daughter – caught in a traffic jam. Leaving the car briefly to discover the cause of the gridlock, he returns to find his child missing. Suddenly, everyone becomes a suspect.

Like any good short, Gridlock is brief but leaves an impact. Darach McGarrigle’s script does an effective job at highlighting the many different ways people react in traumatic situations. Gridlock shows how, in the event of a potential child disappearance, mob mentality can take over. As with the character played excellently by Love/Hate’s Peter Coonan, certain people’s eagerness to find the child mutates into hostility – often aimed at the wrong person. They can accuse others without any serious evidence to back up their claims. Also, personal views or prejudices may colour how they act. They jump to conclusions, quickly regarding alleged “culprits”.

McGarrigle’s script also feels natural and organic. Characters don’t immediately fly off the handle. Instead, events gradually intensify as people begin to grow more agitated and frightened, eventually tipping over into violence.

Duffy’s direction is solid too. Not only does the short look and sound great, it wisely isn’t flashy – a good choice as it makes the events feel realistic to the audience. Any overt stylistics could have perhaps made the viewer more aware they were watching a film.

Without spoiling, there is a stinger in the tail – a final moment which will leave the film lingering long in the memory. Ultimately, Gridlock is a compact short – one which leaves a distinct mark in little time. In the way Lorcan Finnegan and Garret Shanley moved from short filmmaking with Foxes to feature length with Without Name, I hope Duffy and McGarrigle make a similar transition.