DIR: Thaddeus O’Sullivan • WRI: Antoine O. Flatharta • PRO: Jackie Larkin, Lesley McKimm, Maggie Pope • DOP: John Christian Rosenlund • ED: Dermot Diskin • DES: Anna Rackard • Cast: Martin Sheen, Stephen Rea, Trystan Gravelle, Marcella Plunkett, Tom Hickey, Amy Huberman, Joey O’Sullivan
Father Barry (Martin Sheen) is all packed and ready to go to Rome when he’s told his transfer has been put on hold indefinitely, and given the keep-yourself-busy job of raising funds for the local church. Despite his overwhelmingly apparent disappointment, Barry utilizes his love of film to open a cinema in his parish, which is met with a wide array of reactions, most negative of which comes from Stephen Rea’s politician who regards cinema as a port for international filth.
Set in 1950’s Ireland, the film could’ve very easily taken the easy/clichéd approach to small-town mentality, and while there are definitely moments of that (the turning on of a light is greeted with people blessing themselves), mostly the film tackles the issues of cultural and political transformation, both back then when Ireland was under the iron fist of religion, and also a commentary on our present-day situation, as a conversation about the economy is greeted with Father Barry’s opinion that ‘The country just lacks confidence.’
So while a tad heavy-handed at times, as well as having moments of overbearing sentimentality, with a sub-plot involving a fatherless youth that would’ve been better completely excised, it’s the film’s faults as well as its ‘cinema brings together a community’ plot that almost make this an Irish version of Cinema Paradiso, with Sheen’s nuanced, complicated performance bringing the whole thing together. While it’s not quite up there with the giddy heights of that Italian classic, it will still win you over with its quaint charm.
Stella Days is released on 9th March 2012