Caleb Cotter battles the rainy streets of Cork to find solace in shorts.
Before seeing Legacies, my second screening and the first set of Irish shorts to be shown at the Cork Film Festival, I had spent three hours in a café trying to drown out my disappointment of a different film in hot chocolate. As I ran through the rainy streets towards the cinema and took my seat at the edge of a row in a packed room one thought kept repeating in my mind: please let one of these films be great. Just one film to blow me away, to captivate me, that’s all I want. By the short film reel’s end, I was astonished; somehow they were all great.
Every one of the six films played throughout Irish Shorts 1: Legacies was either charming, heart-wrenching or some strange mixture of the two. As the title might suggest, all of the primarily female-led movies told tales dealing with love, loss, grief, life and death, carrying the themes across in a simple and nuanced manner and a heavy dose of humour. The showcase was a thrilling experience back to back, as every film had its own take on the themes and style that made each of them stand out amongst the rest while also somehow feeling intrinsically Irish.
Right off the bat, we were presented with Amy Corrigan’s Bound, depicting Rosie, gathering all her strength in order to save her son’s soul in 1940s Ireland. The pale and dark colours of the film perfectly present the sorrow and loss the young mother is going through in a dream-like manner, while the beautiful cinematography isolates her throughout the entirety film. This is particularly evident in the scenes when Rosie talks to her husband and a priest; her loneliness in these scenes making it all the harder to do what needs to be done. However, it is Amy Molloy’s powerful performance as Rosie that carries the film, perfectly conveying both the heartache and determination of the young mother and her speech to her son as she completes the task in the dead of night is heartbreaking, leading to a melancholic and beautiful ending.
The next two films would build on the emotions and themes built by Bound and set the tone for the rest of the showcase. Sinéad O’Loughlin’s Stray, about a struggling elderly woman dealing with a violent break-in that left her without her husband, and Stuart Douglas’ Cúl an Tí, in which a dying guilt-ridden mother is brought reconciliation with her estranged daughter, were equally as powerful and riveting as each other, both taking things slow and allowing us to get to know the characters, allowing for their heartbreak to become ours. However, this is where the shorts began introducing humour into the mix, Stray with a dry wit and an almost surreal quality I still can’t exactly place and Cúl an Tí with the shocking yet undisputedly sad comments by the hard-as-nails, dying woman.
With this humour introduced, the way was paved for the film that garnered the biggest laughs from the audience, Michael Creagh’s Ruby. When the eccentric, bumbling Len gives an unusual and off-putting gift to his somewhat stuck-up wife, Ruby, on their ruby anniversary, we were met with a wonderful, memorable and charming experience. Dan Gordon (Len) and Kate O’Toole (Ruby) give excellent performances as the bickering couple of opposites and bounce off each other perfectly with the clever, witty dialogue and its many twists and turns. However, the film does not miss the chance to be endearing when it comes to the emotional moments of the film, slowing down just enough for us to feel the weight of the couple’s long-standing relationship, as well as the strength keeping them together. Yet what was most surprising about the film was its style, with a beautiful use of cinematography, editing and colour to traverse from the couple’s conversations to their memories of the past. Overall, the film is extremely poignant and charming and it is sure to stick in the memory.
This leaves us with the final two films of Legacies, Pat, directed by Emma Wall, and Peggy and the Grim by Luke Morgan. Set in 1978, Pat follows the titular music-loving old woman whose only connection with her son in New York is the one phone box in her village. The film bounces from fun and energetic to slow and emotional with astounding ease and the soundtrack of groovy classic rock and roll ballads, along with Pat’s dancing, give the film a real charm. The film is impressively carried by the performances of Rosaline Linehan as Pat and Moe Dunford as her son Conn, who are able to portray the closeness of the mother and son’s relationship despite only speaking to each other through a phone. Meanwhile, Peggy and the Grim ended the reel with a delightfully charming tale of Peggy getting a visit from the Grim Reaper. With a surprising level of wit and light-heartedness, the film leaves one delighted with its fantastic editing, music and cinematography, all done with a delightful simplicity and its final shot gave a perfect and endearing end to Legacies.
Overall, Legacies proved to be a fantastic experience that had a wonderful blend of charm, wit, heartbreak and simplicity to carry across very powerful and universal themes, all the while with a distinctly Irish feel.
The Irish Shorts 1: Legacies programme screened on Sat, 9th Nov 2019 as part of the Cork Film Festival (7 – 17 November 2019).