A Nightingale Falling – Review of Irish Film at the Galway Film Fleadh


Diarmaid Blehein catches A Nightingale Falling, Garret Daly and Martina McGlynn’s debut feature about a turbulent period in Irish history, which screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

A full house gathered in Galway’s Townhall Theatre on a particularly warm July evening to attend the premiere of A Nightingale Falling as part of the Galway Film Fleadh. The evening began with a few words from the directors Garret Daly and Martina McGlynn, whose excitement to have their film finally shown to the world proved somewhat contagious. After many extensions of deserved gratitude, the lights dimmed and the show got under way.

Adapted from the novel by PJ Curtis, A Nightingale Falling tells the story of two sisters May (Tara Breathnach) and Tilly (Muireann Bird), who live in a large farmhouse in the country during the Irish War of Independence. Times are tough and both women work hard to make ends meet, with the help of some local farm labourers. However, their peaceful lives are suddenly disrupted when May finds a critically injured British soldier called Jack (Gerard McCarthy) in their yard. They take him in and do their best to nurse him back to health, fully aware of the consequences of such actions. As Jack slowly recovers, both sisters start to develop feelings for him, but it is only to Tilly he returns such affections. Meanwhile, the Black and Tan soldiers are terrorising the village, searching for Irish rebels, as well as their missing captain.

Daly and McGlynn deliver a fine film which focuses on the effect of a nationwide crisis on one particularl family. Breathnach gives a fine performance as the older and more authoritative May, while Bird is equally impressive as the younger, more excitable Tilly, whom the audience get to see mature before their eyes. The most effective scenes are early on when the sisters are slyly vying for Jack’s affections, without any direct confrontation on the matter apart from the looks they exchange when one catches the other alone with him. The feeling of danger is also very imminent with the ruthless Black and Tans never too far away, added by the fact that many of the farm labourers who work for the sisters are themselves IRA members. The film also doesn’t shy away from the tragic loss of life in this era, as well as the desperate actions of those trying to get away unscathed. Towards the end of the film there comes a twist that will throw even the most experienced filmgoer.

Beautifully directed and brilliantly acted, A Nightingale Falling is a moving, authentic piece of cinema about a turbulent period in Irish history where loyalty and trust were for many the only means of protection.

Click here for our coverage of Irish Film at the 26th Galway Film Fleadh  (8 – 13 July, 2014)


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