The Island Of Evenings tell the story of a man whose depression is so crippling he can barely function. But a chance meeting with a therapist (with unconventional methods) on the internet sets his life off in a direction he wasn’t expecting.
Writer/Director Garry Miley takes us behind the camera.
I had just finished editing a short film and was impatient to have a go at another project. I wanted to test myself on a feature-length piece but I didn’t have a budget for it – or for anything at all. So, I started out with a simple plan and that was to make a feature film for no money whatsoever. I initially took this to mean that the story involved only one character and that this character was confined to one location. Given these parameters, the only way I could imagine a scenario taking shape was if the character was alone in his own house, struggling with depression and facing possible death.
Once I realized that the theme was depression, it occurred to me that it was a topic I already had views about – opinions I had tried out with friends over a drink but had never bothered to explore. But now the opportunity presented itself. The first idea I developed was the notion – not mine, there’s a long tradition of debate on it – that people brought up in the Catholic tradition aren’t cut out for life in a capitalist world. Capitalism and Calvinism are philosophically aligned. Capitalism and Catholicism, in a certain way and with certain individuals, grate against one another. It occurred to me that this circumstance might be the cause of a type of distress I’d noticed in myself and in some of the people around me. So the first half of the script was about a man brought up with a strong Catholic sense of conscience, struggling to get by in a cut-throat world and, as a result, depressed.
Once I had established the character’s dilemma, I had to decide how to get him out of it. This was something I had previously thought about as well. It seemed to me that, in the context of finding a way out of a depressed state, there might be something worthwhile to be explored in the philosophical notion of Genius Loci – roughly translated as ‘sense of place’. It’s a complex idea but I’ll try to put it simply: we all know that Ireland – not all of it and not all the time – has a certain magical quality which derives from a mix of its climate, history, geology and geographic location. Well, it occurred to me that maybe this magical quality is something we should examine a little more closely: what if, instead of considering it as something useful for attracting tourists, it might actually contain within it a possible explanation for the very meaning of life? What if all of us who live in Ireland, instead of getting caught up in the rat race, allowed ourselves get high on the magical qualities to be found in Irish nature? Might this be a valid way to find satisfaction in life?
I wrote the script in about three weeks. After two weeks of writing, I admitted some additional characters into the story. I couldn’t avoid introducing some extra locations as well but, in reality, almost everything was shot in or around my own home in County Clare. We worked long hours and filmed around peoples’ schedules. Cast and crew stayed in my house. My wife kept us all fed. After thirteen days of filming all the equipment had to be returned its owners. I was left to make the film with whatever footage I’d shot, I didn’t have any say in the matter.
Given how little money we had, you might imagine it to be one of those films you feel obliged to like because of all the pain and anguish that went into the making of it. But it’s not like that at all. It’s actually a good film.
The Island Of Evenings premiered in Waterford at Garter Lane on 28th November 2019 and will be screened elsewhere around the country in the new year.