Review: The Legend of Longwood

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DIR: Lisa Mulcahy • WRI: Nadadja Kemper, Lisa Mulcahy, Gwen Eckhaus • PRO: Michael Garland, Nadadja Kemper, Paul Myler, Rob Vermeulen • DOP: Richard Van Oosterhout • ED: Gráinne Gavigan • MUS: Patrick Neil Doyle • DES: Diana van de Vossenberg • CAST: Lucy Morton, Lorcan Bonner, Fiona Glascott, Thekla Reuten, Brendan Conroy, Lorcan Cranitch, Séan Mahon

 

Best known for directing critically acclaimed television dramas such as The Clinic and Red Rock, Irish director Lisa Mulcahy’s second full-length feature film is the children’s fantasy quest The Legend of Longwood. This coming-of-age adventure follows twelve-year old, horse-mad Mickey Miller, whose life is turned upside-down when her horse dies and her mother uproots the family from New York to an eerie backwater in Ireland. Struggling to adjust, Mickey begins to see sinister apparitions linked to the local legend of a mysterious Black Knight, who has been tormenting the village for three hundred years. She soon discovers the legend, a nasty witch called Caitlin and seven precious horses are all connected back to her and she holds the key to unlocking the secret, redeeming the knight and restoring harmony to the village.

Set amidst vast rolling landscapes seeped in majestic mountains, lush hillsides and mystical moors, the Legend of Longwood provides both a beguiling and foreboding platform from which to spring the magical fantasy and supernatural intrigue the mythical legend evokes. While the cinematography is suitably enchanting, lending well to the menace of ill-omened knights, blazing fires, unexplained deaths and imposing castles, the adventure quest narrative fails to commensurate with the tone and mood established by the film’s polychromatic portrait, largely owing to a transparent imbalance within the script. Fusing a mysterious mythological tale with a contemporary fable of greed and deception, to which a young, fearless heroine must overcome adversity to restore order, is always a good starting point in the fantasy quest genre. The problem within the narrative is that despite some impressive performances, the film is just a little too short on mystery or fantasy and stripped of these crucial narrative elements, very little else remains.

Structured upon two narrative strands, whereby a plucky heroine attempts to thwart the dastardly deeds of the wicked witch while attempting to solve a supernatural riddle, should interweave to consolidate a coherent core narrative driven by the heroine’s transformation as she faces many adversities. The script however, fails to affect such a balance and the narrative takes a wild detour away from the mysterious paranormal quest into the realms of comedy and farce as the witch’s sneaky shenanigans gain momentum, engulfing the entire narrative. As such, the story now meanders from the spellbinding promise of mythological adventure to hoodwinking an incompetent castle lord, devaluing the film’s fantastical elements and losing much of the mystical weight the quest should be seeped in. The real adventure now lies with Caitlin’s cunning strategies, Mickey’s fantastical exploits becoming mere afterthoughts, peppered at random around the witch’s sadistic schemes.

Aside from the standout performances from Fiona Glascott as the calculating shrew (also currently starring in John Crowley’s Brooklyn) and Lorcan Cranitch as her partner in crime, the rest of the cast underwhelm and fail to penetrate the limitations of a script evidently burdened with too many screenwriters. Far too many characters, surplus to requirements, add to the uncertainty of the script’s direction and problematic storytelling, lacking any sense of cohesion between the cast. Seán Mahon as the hoodwinked lord, through no fault of his own, is wholly ineffectual, providing no foil to his fiancée’s plot and is representative of the many of the impotent supporting characters who dot the narrative but pose no serious threat to Mickey, depreciating her status as a heroine and situating her as a rather unidentifiable character.

With so many quest films oversaturating the market, The Legend of Longwood is unsuccessful in delivering a narrative that satisfies the crucial components of any fantasy adventure film. Without a high level of mystical intrigue and unnerving eeriness fuelling the story, the plot fails to ignite on a level that would allow for audience investment and identification. As such, the heroine’s anaemic transformation and spiritless adventures, devoid of emotional punch, merely trundle forward at a lackluster pace, lacking the robustness required to hold the attention of sophisticated audiences of the genre, both adults and children alike. Without a substantial heroine driving the narrative, in a plot that is too light on fantasy and mystery, The Legend of Longwood fails to make much impact, despite its captivating façade and unfortunately the film becomes just another forgettable adventure quest drama.

                                                                                                                                       Dee O’Donoghue

PG (See IFCO for details)

99 minutes

The Legend of Longwood is released 23rd October 2015

The Legend of Longwood Official Website

 

 

 

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Irish Films in Cinema 2015

 

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11 Minutes (Jerzy Skolimowski)

4th December

 

The lives of urbanites intertwine in a world where anything can happen at any time.

Reviewed here

 

The Hallow (Corin Hardy)

13th November

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A family who move into a remote milllhouse in Ireland find themselves in a fight for survival with demonic creatures living in the woods.

Reviewed here

 

Night People (Gerard Lough)

13th November

A pair of professional but badly mismatched criminals break into a vacant house to carry out an insurance scam. Awkwardly thrown together with an hour to kill, they reluctantly start telling each other tall tales.

Reviewed here

 

Brooklyn (John Crowley)

6th November

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Set in the early 1950s, Brooklyn is the story of a young woman, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) who moves from small town Ireland to Brooklyn, NY where, unlike home, she has the opportunity for work and for a future – and love, in the shape of Italian-American Tony (Emory Cohen).  When a family tragedy brings her back to Ireland, she finds herself absorbed into her old community, but now with eligible Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) courting her.  As she repeatedly postpones her return to America, Eilis finds herself confronting a terrible dilemma – a heart-breaking choice between two men and two countries.

Brooklyn is adapted from Colm Tóibín’s New York Times Bestseller by Nick Hornby  and directed by John Crowley.

Reviewed here

 

The Legend Of Longwood (Lisa Mulcahy)

23rd October

 

When 12-year-old Mickey Miller moves with her family from New York to Ireland, she soon discovers a mysterious link between herself and the 300-year-old legend of the mysterious Black Knight, who regularly haunts the sleepy Irish village of Longwood. With her new best friend in tow, Mickey sets out to redeem the knight while saving a precious herd of white horses and thwarting the evil plans of a greedy, ambitious woman  – a mighty handful even for the bravest girl.

Reviewed here

 

The Queen Of Ireland (Conor Horgan)

21st October

 

Conor Horgan’s documentary follows Rory O’Neill’s journey from the small Mayo town of Ballinrobe to striding the world stage. The film takes us behind the scenes with his alter ego Panti in the year she became the symbol of Ireland’s march towards marriage equality.

Reviewed here

 

The Hit Producer (Kevin de la Isla)

 

A struggling movie producer in search of an investor reluctantly follows the promise of money into Dublin’s drug underworld where she witnesses a botched murder attempt.

 

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)

16th October

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The Lobster is a love story set in the near future where single people, according to the rules of The City, are arrested and transferred to The Hotel.  There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days.  If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into The Woods.  A desperate Man escapes from The Hotel to The Woods where The Loners live and falls in love, although it is against their rules.

Reviewed here

 

Talking to My Father (Sé Merry Doyle)

16th October

 

Talking to my Father features two voices from two eras each concerned with how we as a nation understand the architecture that surrounds our lives. Modern architecture in Ireland reached a high point in the early sixties and one of its most celebrated and influential figures was Robin Walker.

Reviewed here

 

Tana Bana (Pat Murphy)

9th October

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In Varanasi, the uneasy peace between Hindu and Moslem hinges on the world renowned silk weaving.  The existence of this ancient Hindu city depends upon Moslem weavers.

Reviewed here

 

Ghosthunters – On Icy Trails (Tobi Baumann)

2nd October

 

Based on the bestselling novel “Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost” by Cornelia Funke, Ghosthunters – On Icy Trails, which features Amy Huberman, follows a young boy Tom who discovers an ASG, an Averagely Spooky Ghost called Hugo in his cellar.  He soon realizes that Hugo is not only completely harmless, but also desperately needs his help. Hugo cannot go back to his haunted house, because a dangerous AIG, an Ancient Ice Ghost, has moved in and is spreading an arctic cold over the entire town in the middle of summer. Tom and Hugo go to professional ghost-hunter Hetty Cuminseed, who doesn’t like children or ghosts very much, and who just lost her job at the CGI, the Central Ghosthunting Institute. Hetty teaches Tom and Hugo the basics of ghost-hunting and the three become an unusual team: only with friendship, courage and self-confidence can they overcome their adversary and save the town from the AIG.

Reviewed here

 

Older Than Ireland (Alex Fegan)

25th September

 

Older Than Ireland features thirty men and women aged 100 years and over. Often funny and at times poignant, the film explores each centenarian’s journey, from their birth at the dawn of Irish independence to their life as a centenarian in modern day Ireland. Older Than Ireland ‘s observational style offers a rare insight into the personal lives of these remarkable individuals.

Reviewed here

 

Pursuit (Paul Mercier)

18th September

A modern take on the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne – a contemporary myth about the pursuit of power, class, love and the chance to start again.

Reviewed here

 

The Callback Queen (Graham Cantwell)

11th September

 

In the cut-throat London film industry a vivacious actress chasing her big break struggles to maintain her integrity in the face of the director’s advances

 

The Great Wall ( Tadhg O’Sullivan)

21st August

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This bold new documentary, an adaptation of a Kafka story, looks at the enclosure of Europe by a complex system of walls and fences. Mysterious and visually dazzling, the film journeys across a range of European landscapes, and encounters those whose lives are defined by these walls – detainees within European migrant camps. [IFI Programme Notes]

Reviewed here

 

A Doctor’s Sword (Gary Lennon)

7th August

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Tells the incredible story of Aidan MacCarthy, a young doctor from West Cork who survived some of the most harrowing episodes of World War II (including the atomic bombing of Nagasaki) and his family’s search to uncover the origin of the Japanese Samurai sword, which now resides in MacCarthy’s Bar in Castletownbere.

 

 

You’re Ugly Too (Mark Noonan)

10th July

 

Will (Aidan Gillen) is released from prison on compassionate leave to care for his niece Stacey after the death of her mother. As they both head into the sleepy Irish midlands and attempt to be a family, they suffer a series of setbacks; Stacey is refused admission to the local school because of her recently developed narcolepsy; Will repeatedly comes close to breaking his prison-ordered curfew; and his attempts at being a father figure to her prove disastrous…As their future hangs in the balance they must search for a new way forward together.

Reviewed here

 

 

Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore)

10th July

Tomm Moore’s Oscar-nominated animated feature tells the story of the last Seal Child’s journey home. After their mother’s disappearance, Ben and Saoirse are sent to live with Granny in the city. When they resolve to return to their home by the sea, their journey becomes a race against time as they are drawn into a world Ben knows only from his mother’s folktales. But this is no bedtime story; these fairy folk have been in our world far too long. It soon becomes clear to Ben that Saoirse is the key to their survival.

Reviewed here

 

Let Us Prey (Brian O’Malley)

12th June

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2fnLntATUo

Rachel, a rookie cop, is about to begin her first nightshift in a neglected police station in a Scottish, backwater town. The kind of place where the tide has gone out and stranded a motley bunch of the aimless, the forgotten, the bitter-and-twisted who all think that, really, they deserve to be somewhere else. They all think they’re there by accident and that, with a little luck, life is going to get better. Wrong, on both counts. Six is about to arrive – and All Hell Will Break Loose!

Reviewed here

 

Queen and Country (John Boorman)

12th June

The sequel to Boorman’s 1987 Academy Award®-nominated picture, Queen and Country takes place in 1952. Bill Rohan is eighteen years old, dreaming his life away at the family’s riverside home, waiting to be called up for two years’ conscription in the British Army. His idyll is shattered by the harsh realities of boot camp. He meets Percy, an amoral prankster; they are rivals and antagonists, but they gradually forge a deep friendship in the claustrophobic environment of a closed, prison-like training camp. The pressure is briefly relieved by excursions into the outside world, where they both fall in love. Finally, Bill is confronted with the shattered lives of wounded boys returning from Korea.

Reviewed here

 

Fortune’s Wheel (Joe Lee)

5th June

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Fortune’s Wheel is a documentary feature film about Bill Stephens, an ordinary young man in 1950s Ireland with an extraordinary ambition: to become an international circus star.  It is also a love story about Bill and his young and beautiful wife May, from East Wall.  Their double act, Jungle Capers, Bill Stephens and Lovely Partner, was a series of death-defying feats with a troupe of lions and dogs designed to thrill audiences in the circus tent and on the stage.  With this act they hoped to break free from the suffocating reality of Irish life, but things went terribly wrong when, in November 1951, one of their animals escaped.
The story gained national and international attention at the time, but it is only now – after 60 years of silence – that two families and a community have come together to tell the story in full.

Reviewed here

 

The Canal (Ivan Kavanagh)

8th May

Set in rural Ireland, The Canal stars Rupert Evans as David, a film archivist with a morbid fascination for old films in which the subjects have since died. Right after learning that his wife may be cheating on him, she mysteriously disappears at the same time that his assistant Claire finds an old reel of film that points to a murder that took place in his house a hundred years ago. David starts to suspect her disappearance may involve some form of the supernatural but he also quickly becomes the prime suspect.

Reviewed here

 

Get Up & Go (Brendan Grant)

1st May

A slacker comedy which chronicles a hectic 24 hours in the life of would-be comedian Coilin (Killian Scott) and frustrated musician Alex (Peter Coonan). When Alex’s girlfriend tells him she’s pregnant, he refuses to allow her to derail his long-held plan to escape to London. Meanwhile the hapless Coilin is striking out on stage and off, as he attempts to get his faltering comedy career off the ground and win the heart of his dream girl. With time ticking down to Alex’s departure, the mismatched pair will be forced to confront the reality of their childhood dreams of artistic greatness while their lifelong friendship is tested to the limit.

Reviewed here

 

Two by Two (Toby Genkel, Sean McCormack)

1st May

It’s the end of the world. A flood is coming. Luckily for Finny and his dad Dave, a couple of clumsy Nestrians, an Ark has been built and all animals are welcome… well almost all. Unfortunately for them, Nestrians are not on the list! But Dave has a plan, and Finny and he manage to sneak onto the Ark disguised as Grymps – much to the horror of real Grymps, Hazel and her daughter Leah.

However their troubles are just beginning as the two curious youngsters end up falling over board. Now Finny and Leah have to brave the elements in their quest to find higher ground while fighting off hungry predators and making unlikely friends. Meanwhile on board the Ark the parents must set aside their differences and hatch a plan to turn the boat around and make it back in time to rescue their kids.

Reviewed here

 

Glassland (Gerard Barrett)

17th April

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

Reviewed here

 

 I Used To Live Here (Frank Berry)

3rd April

I Used To Live Here follows Amy Keane, a 13-year-old trying to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, who experiences the temptation of suicide after witnessing the outpouring of love for a local suicide victim. The film takes a fictional look at how the idea of suicide can spread in communities, particularly among young people.

Reviewed here

 

In A House That Ceased To Be (Ciarín Scott)

13th March

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-q9aesjHjeU

A documentary that focuses on Irish humanitarian and children’s rights activist Christina Noble, whose unwavering commitment and selfless efforts have seen her change the lives of countless children and families for the better since 1989. Her drive stems from a childhood in Ireland fraught with poverty, loss and institutional abuse. However, despite achieving so much in the face of adversity and the success of her global children’s foundation, Christina remains scarred by the memory of the three children she was unable to save, namely her own brother and two sisters, from whom she was separated at a very young age. Hundreds of thousands have benefitted as a result of her courage, daring and steadfast dedication to protecting the vulnerable from the evils of the world, but is it possible for Christina to put her own family back together after being separated for fifty-three years?

 

Patrick’s Day (Terry McMahon) 

6th February

 

 

A young man with mental health issues becomes intimate with a suicidal air hostess, but his obsessive mother enlists a dysfunctional cop to separate them.

Reviewed here

 

Apples of the Golan (Keith Walsh & Jill Beardsworth)

16th January

The epic story of one village in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. Before the Six Day War, Majdal Shams was one of 139 villages in the Golan Heights region. Only five remain. Over 130,000 Syrian Arabs were forced from their homes never to return. Amongst those who remain a stoic pragmatism prevails, Israel their home, Syria their homeland. Neither is paradise. They are too few to fight. The apples are the people’s bombs.

Reviewed here

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‘The Legend of Longwood’ selected for Giffoni Film Festival

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The Legend of Longwood, filmed in Ireland and with a cast including Lorcan Cranitch, Miriam Margoyles and Séan Mahon, has been invited to compete at 44th Giffoni Film Festival, taking place July 18th – 27th.

Directed by Lisa Mulcahy, The Legend of Longwood is a thrilling live-action family adventure about a young American girl Mickey Miller (played by newcomer Lucy Morton) who must release a small Irish town and its people from an ancient curse.  The modern day fairy tale tells the tale of this young female hero in a world of magic and supernatural forces.

This year’s festival programme will feature 163 films chosen from 3760 potential titles. The event was founded in 1971 to promote and develop cinema for young people, and features a jury made up exclusively from young people – now coming from over 50 different countries embracing all the world’s continents. Stars in attendance will include Richard Gere, Alan Rickman Matt Bomer and Lea Michele. This year’s festival has the theme, “Be Different.”

 

 

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