Seán Crosson reviews Róise & Frank, Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy’s uplifting tale of shaggy dogs, a grieving widow and finding hope in the darkest of places.
Film in the Irish language is currently enjoying a period of unprecedented productivity and success, facilitated and supported by the extraordinary work of TG4 and in particular the Cine4 initiative that also receives support from Screen Ireland and the BAI. To date six films have been produced, including the award-winning and sublime An Cailín Ciúin, one of the best features in any language to emerge in the past twelve months. The Fleadh featured two further films to emerge from this initiative, Tarrac (set in the Kerry Gaeltacht and featuring the competitive world of Naomhóg boat rowing) and Róise & Frank, a heartfelt and charming comedy.
The film stars the always impressive Bríd Ní Neachtain as widow Róise who is struggling to come to terms with the passing of her greatly missed husband Frank, when a stray dog arrives at her house one day and insists on following her wherever she goes. At first resistant to the dog’s charms, she eventually is won over by his seemingly extraordinary attachment to her dead husband’s favourite places, possessions and pass-times (including his love of hurling). Eventually, to the consternation of her son Alan (brilliantly played by Cillian Ó Gairbhí), Róise becomes convinced that the dog – who she also christens Frank – is the reincarnation of her dead husband.
‘Frank’ (the dog that is) displays an uncanny knowledge and ability at hurling and becomes a key mascot for the local underage hurling team. Here the film benefits from great performances not just from the dog (played by English based dog-actor Barley, a rescue dog from Battersea), but also from the young actors contributing, in particular Ruadhán de Faoite as Maidhchí, who is transformed into the star player of his team with ‘Frank’s’ support.
While Róise agus Frank never approaches the depth or sophistication of An Cailín Ciúin, it is nonetheless an engaging and enjoyable production which is likely to appeal to younger audiences in particular. Directors Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy spoke following the screening in Galway and emphasised the importance of the An Rinn setting in Gaeltacht na nDéise, particularly given the film’s focus on hurling as a key component – the ready availability of young enthusiastic and capable hurlers contributes hugely to the convincing portrayal of hurling in the film – perhaps one of the more challenging sports to capture with integrity. The Waterford setting also enables stunning landscape and coastal cinematography by DOP Peter Robertson – a notable mention should also be given to Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s engaging soundtrack that perfectly complements the setting and tone of the film.
Róise & Frank screened on 6th July 2022 as part of the Galway Film Fleadh.
Róise & Frank is in cinemas from 16th September 2022.