Laura Canonn goes West in Dónal Foreman’s surreal drama.

The Cry of Granuaile is a captivating and haunting look at the relationship between two women in their quest to make a movie about the pirate queen Granuaile. It blurs the lines of fact and fiction, reality and dreams. Like trying to grasp the facts about the real Granuaile, the audience is left with more questions than answers  

The first time we meet Cáit (Judith Roddy), she is arguing with her boyfriend in the car. They are seen from the back seat, so their faces are not clearly visible. From the beginning, the film is shot in a way that foreshadows what is to come. The audience should expect no clear answers but an emotionally engaging experience. 

Maire, played by Dale Dickey, is an American filmmaker who has come to Ireland to research Granuaile and hired Cáit as her assistant. Throughout the film, the two women become close. There is a beautiful scene where Cáit breaks up with her boyfriend while Marie is doing a Q & A after screening one of her early films. He can’t believe she is breaking up with him in theatre 2 of the IFI. In that same scene. Dickey delivers a powerful monologue about grieving the death of her mother. It is one of those scenes that settles into your soul. It would be easy to assume that Marie would become a mother figure for Cáit, but the film does not fall into that trope. The women take care of each other at different times. It is a complex relationship that is not entirely defined by employee and employer or as friendship. 

The film asks many questions about authorship and who should be telling stories. Should filmmakers that are not Irish be telling the stories of Ireland? Director Dónal Foreman leaves us to ponder this question, but does not provide any answers. 

Throughout the film, the characters drift in and out of dreams and reality. The line is blurred even more when Cáit and Marie visit the island where Granuaile lived. The cinematography by Diana Vidrascu is stunning. The wide-open landscape and wind-swept beaches show the isolation of the characters. It is easy to see how they could lose themselves in the story of the pirate queen. 

When Marie begins shooting her film about Granuaile the lines of reality are completely blurred. All the women take turns playing Granuaile, the costumes are cheap and flimsy, and modern-day items are incorporated into the film. This is distracting for a while, but you are pulled into this new reality as the filming continues. 

The performances are all noteworthy. The focus of the film is on Marie and Cáit. They more than carry the film. However, the townsfolk on the island hold their own. As the ship captain and sort of love interest for Marie, Andrew Bennett is completely charming. Sparks fly when they meet. Their scenes together are so much fun to watch. Most of the characters we meet on the island are also characters in Marie’s film. Foreman uses his actors well. Even minor characters are memorable.  

Because it engulfs you like a fog, it leaves you with more of a feeling than a clear idea. You are never sure exactly what the director wants you to take away from the film. Despite that, The Cry of Granuaile is a beautiful film that will leave you thinking about it long after you have exited the theatre. 

The Cry of Granuaile is in cinemas from 2nd September 2022.


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