Irish Film Review: ‘Calm with Horses’ @ Toronto International Film Festival 2019 

 

Aoife O’Neill was at the Toronto International Film Festival 2019 and sent us on this review of Nick Rowland’s Calm with Horses.

 

One of a few Irish films that closed Toronto International Film Festival this year is that of Nick Rowland’s Calm with Horses; a film that was adapted by Joe Murtagh from Colin Barrett’s acclaimed collection of short stories. Calm with Horses premiered at the festival alongside an Irish Canadian co-production starring Dakota Fanning called Sweetness in the Belly, (also a book adaptation from Camilla Gibb’s book of the same name), as well as Neasa Hardiman’s film Sea Fever. It is clear that Ireland was definitely represented on the big screen in Toronto this year.

Calm with Horses tells the story of Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong, an ex-boxer, who has been adopted into the deadly Devers family. Used as a muscle man, particularly by Daimhin Devers (Barry Keoghan), he is treated like a lap dog doing the violent bidding for the family and he is also kept on a very short leash. At the centre of the film is the struggle of Arm and where his loyalty lies. Is he loyal to the adopted family that ‘protects’ him or to his actual family that he must protect? At first, the audience is led to believe that Arm should be hated and is a violent thug at heart, but then, as the story unfolds, we see the person behind the brutally-violent actions.

The catalyst of this thriller-crime drama is when Arm must choose to either kill a man for the Devers or provide money for the education of his five year-old autistic son, Jack. The viewer is thrown into the action of the film almost immediately, only discovering the motives behind the actions of the characters as the story reveals itself. The brutality and unyielding wrath of the Dever family illustrates clearly, the fact, that they will stop at nothing to maintain their power in the community, even at the expense of Arm.

Violent from the get go, this film is not for the faint-hearted. After seeing this film with a Canadian audience, it was almost amusing to hear the loud gasps and shock from audience members at the most violent scenes. Not that the violence is amusing but, Canadian audiences, I have found, are very vocal when watching films in the cinema.

With a similar vibe of RTÉ’s Love/Hate, Irish viewers, I think, will enjoy this thriller. Set in  rural Ireland, Calm with Horses puts a spin on the gangland drama usually set in Irish cities. Trained eyes may recognise some of the backdrop of the Irish countryside throughout the drama (filmed in both Galway and Clare).

The slow pace of the film reflects the lifestyle of the characters and the community they inhabit; their simple survival for money and opportunity while wanting a better life. The depiction of rural Irish life is true to form, where the community knows or think they know everything about you. The isolation and judgement one feels is shown particularly well as it affects the character of Ursula, in her desire to escape the judgemental town they live in. Ursula is condemned by the community as they accuse her of giving her son Jack his medical condition.

Despite the brutal violence in the film, the story is juxtaposed with moments of calm as the title suggests. As Arm tries to bond with his son, Jack, it is clear that he has not grasped the concept of Jack’s medical condition and diagnosis, unlike Jack’s mother, Ursula. Played by Niamh Algar, Ursula provides the voice of reason to Arm, trying to release the grasp the Dever family have over him.

Headed by a heavy Irish cast including outstanding performances from Barry Keoghan and Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders), as well as American born actor Cosmo Javis (Lady Macbeth) taking the lead role of Arm in the film. Calm with Horses is from the DMC Film production company. The production company, founded by Michael Fassbender and Conor McCaughan, and producer Daniel Emmerson developed the project with Film4 as Nick Rowland’s feature directorial debut.

Most importantly, it was nice to have the opportunity to watch an Irish film in Toronto on the big screen being so far from home. After supporting many different world cinemas throughout the festival, such as Latin America, Spain, France, Japan, India and Africa to name but a few, it was fantastic to get to experience this film with a very packed Canadian audience excited to see Ireland represented on screen.

 

Calm with Horses had its world premiere 8th September 2019 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

‎The Toronto International Film Festival 2019 took place 5–15 September 2019.

Share

Preview of Irish Film at the 2019 Cork Film Festival

 

Over 300 films and events are included in the packed 2019 Cork Film Festival programme, with 90% of the features, documentaries and shorts having their first screening in Cork. The festival runs from 7 – 17 November. Tickets are available at www.corkfilmfest.org.

This year a trio of Irish premiere Galas have been announced, with the much-anticipated drama Ordinary Love, starring Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville, having its Irish premiere at the Opening Gala on Thursday, 7 November.  Closing the 11-day festival will be the Irish premiere of new Irish-Belgian drama, The Other Lamb, direct from its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, on Sunday, 17 November. Plus there’s the Irish gala film The Last Right, the debut feature from the very talented Aoife Creghan.

Below we preview all the Irish films screening at this year’s festival.

 

Ordinary Love

DIR: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn • WRI: Owen McCafferty

Thu, 7th Nov 2019 @ 19:30 • The Everyman Theatre

Joan and Tom  are a long-married couple settled in their ways, enjoying brisk walks at sunset and playful bickering. Then Joan discovers a lump in her breast, which starts a chain of events that threatens to change their relationship completely.

CAST:  Lesley Manville, Liam Neeson

Tickets


Lost Lives

DIR: Dermot Lavery, Michael Hewitt

Fri, 8th Nov @ 18:15 • The Everyman Theatre

Adapted from the book that aims to document the stories of the men, women and children who have died as a result of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, Lost Lives is an elegiac, powerful and sadly pertinent film that acknowledges the human cost of 50 years of sectarian conflict and comes at a time when the fragility of the peace process is distressingly evident.

Tickets


Into the West

 DIR: Mike Newell • WRI: Jim Sheridan

Sat, 9th Nov @ 13:00 & Sat 16th Nov @ 18:30 • The Everyman Theatre

The ever-popular tale of two Traveller boys who escape the harsh reality of their grim lives in a Dublin high-rise with the aid of a magical white horse. Papa Reilly  drinks himself into a stupor after the death of his wife. His sons Ossie  and Tito are comforted by the gift of a white stallion, Tír na nÓg, from their grandfather.When their beautiful steed is stolen, they begin a quest to retrieve him and head west, with their father and police in hot pursuit.

CAST: Gabriel Byrne, Ellen Barkin, Ciarán Fitzgerald, Rúaidhrí Conroy, David Kelly

Tickets


Irish Shorts 1: Legacies

Sat, 9th Nov 2019 @ 15:30 •  The Gate Cinema Cork City

Bound (Amy Corrigan), Stray (Sinéad O’Loughlin), Cúl an Tí (Stuart Douglas), Pat (Emma Wall), Ruby (Michael Creagh, Peggy and the Grim (Luke Morgan)

Tickets


The Cave 

DIR/WRI: Tom Waller 

Sat, 9th Nov @ 18:15 • The Everyman Theatre

When the Wild Boars soccer team, consisting of 12 schoolboys and their coach, became trapped deep inside a waterlogged cave in northern Thailand during the summer of 2018, the efforts to rescue them drew the concerned attention of the world. In this thrilling, visceral recreation of events, Irish filmmaker Tom Waller tells the story from the perspective of the people who often made selfless decisions as they witnessed young lives at stake.

CAST: Ron Smoorenburg, Lawrence de Stefano, Eoin O’Brien

Tickets


Irish Shorts 2: Daughters

Sun 10th Nov @ 13:00 •  The Gate Cinema Cork City

Moth (Allyn Quigley), Young Mother (John Robert Brown), Chestnuts (Tom Lenihan), Relic (Christy Scoltock), Coming to Terms (Patrick Ketch), 134 (Sarah-Jane Drummey), A White Horse (Shaun O Connor), Ciúnas (Tristan Heanue).


Sweetness in the Belly

DIR: Zeresenay Berhane Mehari • WRI: Laura Phillips

Sun 10th Nov @ 17:45 & Mon 11th Nov @ 15:45 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Having grown up under the guardianship of a celebrated Sufi master after being abandoned by her wayward hippie parents, Lilly  finds herself in Ethiopia and in love during the final years of Haile Selassie’s reign. As revolutionary fervour erupts in violence, she ships to England, where her status as a white woman sees her favoured before black refugees, though her devout Muslim faith means she is still regarded an outsider. She contributes to building a growing community of migrants while searching for her lost love.

Cast: Dakota Fanning, Wunmi Mosaku

Tickets


Free Radicals

Mon 11th Nov @ 20:45 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

A selection of international experimental filmmaking that includes Meat (Silvio Severino) and Epoch (Kevin McGloughlin).

Tickets


What Time Is Death?

Tue 12th Nov @ 18:00  Triskel Christchurch

After retiring from the music business, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, formerly The KLF, entered the art world as the K Foundation. Following their biggest artistic statement to date (filming the burning of a million pounds) they signed a contract on the bonnet of a Nissan vowing not to mention the burning for 23 years, then promptly disappeared. Sure enough, 23 years later, in 2017, the K Foundation resurfaced with plans to build a ‘People’s Pyramid’ in Liverpool filled with human ashes.

Tickets


Irish Shorts 3: Friends, Families & Other Strangers

Wed 13th Nov @ 15:30 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Evergreen (Dominic Curran), In the Narrow Shade of a Pen (Taro Madden), Just Fine (Ciarán Hickey), The Owl (Neil Winterlich) Limbo (Matthew McGuigan), The Space Between (Elaine Kennedy). 

Tickets


The Evening Redness in the South

DIR: Colin Hickey

Wed 13th Nov @ 18:00 & Thu 14th Nov @  12:45 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Amidst images of men at work on building sites, mist rolling over the countryside, gloriously vivid skylines and tenderly reconstructed memories, a narrative of sorts is played out, as the life and loves of an unnamed protagonist (portrayed by Louis Jacob with compelling screen presence) are hinted at.

Tickets


Irish Shorts 4: Finding Their Place

Thu 14th Nov @ 17:00The Gate Cinema Cork City

Kelly (Solène Guichard), No Place (Laura Kavanagh), Rosalyn (Olivia J Middleton), The House Fell (Maeve Stone), Humblebrag (Sinead O’Shea), In Orbit (Katie McNeice), Wishbone (Myrid Carten), Hasta La Vista (Laragh A McCann).

Tickets


The Yellow Bittern

DIR: Alan Gilsenan

Thu 14th Nov @ 18:00  The Gate Cinema Cork City

To mark the tenth anniversary of its original release, Cork Film Festival presents a special screening of The Yellow Bittern, Alan Gilsenan’s remarkable documentary biopic of Liam Clancy. Recounting his life in his own words, Clancy’s personal reflections are insightful and inspirational, constructing a revealing portrait of great candour and honesty. Like his musical work, the film is lyrical and poetic, and a fitting tribute to this great man at the end of his life.

Tickets


Floating Structures

DIR: Adrian Duncan, Feargal Ward

Thu 14th Nov @ 18:15  • Triskel Christchurch

Beginning with the world’s first metal cantilever bridge, which was located in Bavaria, Floating Structures charts a course to Paris where it encounters the visionary engineering work of Ireland’s Peter Rice. Co-directed by visual artist and writer Adrian Duncan and Feargal Ward (The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid), Floating Structures is a flâneur-like quest to consider the gravity-defying mysteries of structural engineering.

Tickets


Irish Shorts 5: It’s No Longer a Journey Down the Road

Fri 15th Nov @ 16:00 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Lovestruck (Eli Dolliver), Kathleen (Liam O’Neill), Streets of Fury (Aidan McAteer), Leave the Road Behind You (Daniel Butler), HALO (Michael-David McKernan), John Don’t Know Nothin’! (Conor Kehelly), The Dream Report(Jack O’Shea), Something Doesn’t Feel Right (Fergal Costello).

Tickets


The Last Right 

DIR/WRI: Aoife Crehan

Thu 14th Nov @ 20:45 •  The Everyman Theatre

A fateful exchange on a flight from New York to Ireland has complicated consequences for Daniel Murphy.He’s left in charge of a corpse, the body of someone he never knew. He is persuaded to take on the challenge of getting an environmentally friendly cardboard coffin from his family home in Clonakilty to Rathlin Island by his autistic younger brother Louis ) and Mary, a flighty young mortician with her own agenda.

CAST: Michiel Huisman, Samuel Bottomley, Niamh Algar, Brian Cox

Tickets


Irish Shorts 6: Documentary Shorts

Sat 16th Nov @ 12:30 • The Gate Cinema Cork City

Blankets of Hope: Cork Cancer Care Centre (Edvinas Maciulevicius), Outside the Box (Janet Grainger), Postcard from a Crisis (Kathleen Harris, Samuel Meyler), Ramón: Notes from a Beekeeper (Hilary Kennedy), The Last Organist (Paddy McConnell), The Sunny Side Up (Peter Kilmartin), Hydebank (Ross McClean), Recommended Rapper (Caoimhin Coffey), 99 Problems (Ross Killeen), The First was a Boy (Shaun Dunne)

Tickets


Cork on Camera
Sat 16th Nov @ 15:15  Triskel Christchurch

The Irish Film Institute presents a programme of Cork-themed films from collections at the IFI Irish Film Archive. This year’s programme includes ‘Silent Art’ (1958), a portrait of sculptor Séamus Murphy by Oscar-nominated documentarian Louis Marcus; ‘Travels Through Erin’ (1978), a US homage to the Aran jumper taking a trio of models around Cork on a photo shoot; ‘Dark Moon Hollow’ (1972) following an elderly gentleman as he meanders from Roches Point to Gougane Barra in a film directed by then BBC film editor Colin Hill; and tantalising rushes from ‘Car Touring’ (1965), Jim Mulkern’s uncompleted travelogue of two young couples touring the county.

Tickets


Screen Ireland World Premiere Shorts

Sat 16th Nov @ 15:30 The Everyman Theatre

Above the Law (Bryony Dunne), Kalchalka (Gar O’Rourke), Welcome to a Bright White Limbo (Cara Holmes), A Better You) (Eamonn Murphy), Maya (Sophia Tamburrini), Christy (Brendan Canty), Sister This (Claire Byrne), Corporate Monster (Ruairi Robinson), A Cat Called Jam (Lorraine Lordan), The Grass Ceiling (Iseult Howlett).


Best of Cork

Sun 17th Nov @ 13:00 • The Everyman Theatre

Blankets of Hope: Cork Cancer Care Centre (Edvinas Maciulevicius), The Space Between Us (Elaine Kennedy),  Coming to Terms (Patrick Ketch), Stray (Sinéad O’Loughlin), Rosalyn (Olivia J Middleton), A White Horse (Shaun O Connor), Outside the Box (Janet Grainger),  Lovestruck (Eli Dolliver).

Tickets


The Other Lamb

DIR: Małgorzata Szumowska • WRI: Catherine S McMullen

Sun, 17th Nov 2019 @  18:00 • The Everyman Theatre

Hidden away from civilisation, an all-female cult serves its spiritual leader, a man known as Shepherd. Selah has grown into a teenager as part of this self-sufficient community, but as she approaches adulthood, pervasive doubts about her faith inspire dark, bloody visions. As the Shepherd leads his flock on a journey to find a new paradisal retreat, Selah is shocked to learn what her role in the group is to become.

CAST: Michiel Huisman, Raffey Cassidy

Share

Niamh Heery, Director of ‘A Tiny Spark’

Dr Karen Doyle

A Tiny Spark is an award-winning documentary which follows both the story of three people who have had a stroke and the scientists leading research in this area at NUI Galway.

Director Niamh Heery tells us the story behind the film.

 

The idea for A Tiny Spark came about when we were talking about submitting to Science on Screen, the Galway Film Centre/ CÚRAM scheme that eventually funded it. Our producer Caroline Kealy had attended an information session and had been really interested in the work that Dr Karen Doyle was doing in the area of stroke. Her and her team are collecting the actual blood clots that caused strokes from thousands of patients all over the world and analysing what is inside them. It is quite a tangible, visual thing they are doing, which when it comes to making a film about science is a definite plus. When we visited the lab in NUI Galway we were struck by the arrangements of the clots that were laid out on slides. To me each one almost had character. Some red, some pink, some skinny, some frighteningly large. And when they were magnified by 2000x these tiny little things began to look almost like vast deserts and valleys. 

I started researching stroke survivors’ experiences and found a number of incredibly scary and dramatic descriptions of what happened to people when they had a stroke. It’s such an indescribable thing that the people who had experienced it spoke about it in almost visually abstract ways. Initially,  I wanted my partner, Animator and 3D Artist Eric Dolan to work on explanatory visuals for the film, illustrating how strokes affect various parts of the brain. But after hearing the patients describe a stroke like that we decided to expand the animation and use it to show this surreal thing as the patients described it. So for instance when one participant spoke about ‘being lost in time’, Eric animated that dark, helpless feeling. We see calendar pages flying about just out of reach, a hospital bed where the sun and moon rise and fall repeatedly on a frightened patient. I was keen to incorporate the clot imagery into the animation, so we textured the animation backgrounds with magnified blood clots. The clots are literally a part of the visual story the whole way through. The animations took about seven weeks and a mix of 2D and 3D animation techniques were used. 

I also spoke to our DOP, Kevin Minogue, early on about how to approach the key moment when a stroke happened. In each contributor’s story, these moments are etched forever into their minds in sharp detail so I wanted to try and recreate this. We shot on RED, which allowed us to shoot a good range of slow motion with a decent sized frame. Kevin told me about ‘lens whacking’, the practice of just holding the lens barely in place as you move the camera, letting light crack and flood into the body in intervals. It replicated pain, headaches and disorientation in a really nice way, so after some tests we used this approach when filming the three ‘stroke moment’ reconstructions.

The interviews are the backbone of the documentary. When interviewing the scientists, I took a very sequential approach, making sure that they told me in plain language exactly what the project was, step by step. Once we had that we could talk about how exciting the project was in terms of the results and how they could inform real, life-changing medicine.

Each stroke survivor interview was very different and had to be taken at its own pace. It is such a life-altering, painful thing to happen to a person and their family. I was keen to get to that real emotional place but also to explore how it had made them stronger and changed their perspective on big-life questions. 

When coming to name the film, I remembered how one of our participant’s doctors had described her strokes as ‘sparking off inside the brain.’ This tiny bunch of cells, a blood clot, is ready at any moment to fire and create massive change inside a person. When thinking about the journey our participants are on, it also made sense. They have such strength and perseverance in understanding that recovery is about tiny victories every day towards a better life. And going back to the research – it’s the spark and ingenuity of this small lab in Galway that could one day lead major change for millions of patients around the globe. As Dante said, ‘From a tiny spark, a mighty flame can grow.’

 

A Tiny Spark screened on RTÉ One on World Stroke Day, Tuesday 29 October 2019 and is on the RTÉ Player for the next month

 

Share

The Cinema of Romances

Pic: Dorje De Burgh

David Turpin is a screenwriter (The Lodgers, The Winter Lake) and musician, as The Late David Turpin.  With the release of his new album Romances – a collaboration with a ‘cast’ of ten different guest singers that was inspired by his work in film – David discusses five unusual cinematic love stories that have been influential on his own work.

 

My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)

See My Own Private Idaho at the right age, and it’s with you for life.  Gus Van Sant’s best film is many things – a sympathetic portrait of young people on the fringes; a palimpsest of Shakespeare’s Henry IV; a road movie as deeply affecting as Paris, Texas – but most of all, it’s an extraordinarily tender and melancholy unrequited love story. River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves are one of the most iconic couples of the 1990s, precisely because they don’t fit together – and because this is evident to everybody (both in the film and watching it), except for Phoenix’s poignantly guileless hero. The justly famous campfire scene between the leads is one of cinema’s most moving depictions of the insufficiency of words to express feeling. It’s beautifully played by Phoenix, of course, but it’s also worth noting that Reeves’ dependable air of benign obliviousness was never better – or more tragically – used than here.

 

The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, 2014)

Peter Strickland’s rarefied love story takes place in a world without men, where lepidopterologists Cynthia and Evelyn (Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna) conduct a relationship defined by ritualised performances of dominance and submission. The film’s genius lies in how its surface – impeccably evoking the misty, sapphically-fixated ‘eurotica’ of the mid-1970s – both conceals and illuminates its inner meaning. Unlike the ‘Eurotrash’ it invokes, The Duke of Burgundy is a deeply humane and moving story about the ways in which we abnegate ourselves for our lovers – and the fear of failing to sufficiently embody others’ desires. The reversal of roles, in which we come to understand the ‘dominant’ partner (Knudsen) as imprisoned by the desires of her ‘subordinate’ (D’Anna), is one of erotic cinema’s most astute, and moving, deconstructions of its own myths. The Duke of Burgundy is both a wholesale work of onanistic fantasy, and its own opposite.

 

Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942)

Based on a florid bestseller by Olive Higgins Prouty, Now, Voyager is, in many ways, the quintessential 1940s melodrama – not least for its touching faith in the power of psychotherapy. It’s also the perfect vehicle for Bette Davis, whose transformation from drab ‘Aunt Charlotte’ to glamorous ‘Miss Vale’ is achieved via The Talking Cure and some truly spectacular hats. As Jerry – the married man to whom she becomes close while visiting Rio de Janeiro – Paul Henreid judges his performance perfectly. In other words, he understands that this is Davis’ show. What makes Now, Voyager more than an exquisite piece of camp (although it is that too) is its genuine wisdom. Charlotte and Jerry cannot ultimately be together (‘Don’t let’s ask for the moon, we have the stars!’ Davis exclaims), but their romance has made each of them better able to accept their course in life.  It’s a touching affirmation of love as the path to self-knowledge, however long the affair itself may last.

 

The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)

The Fly is a marvel of dramatic economy featuring only four significant roles – the central couple (Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum) and a pair of potential love rivals (John Getz and Joy Boushel). The romance between unworldly Seth Brundle and no-nonsense Veronica Quaife may have been helped by the fact that Goldblum and Davis were a couple at the time, but it’s also written with warmth and empathy, as well as the razor-concision one expects from Cronenberg. We all remember the inside-out baboon, the acid-vomit, and the leprous body-parts on the bathroom shelf, but what’s striking about The Fly is the humanity and eroticism that peeks out between these gruesome highlights – as delicate as the stocking used to test the telepod device.  Although Cronenberg has been cagey about the film being read as an AIDS metaphor, its story of a couple facing disease – and the transformation of the afflicted into a social pariah and object of fear – has powerful resonance emerging the year after the first HIV antibody test was developed.

 

La Belle et la Bête (Jean Cocteau, 1946)

My favourite screen romance is Jean Cocteau’s exquisite adaptation of Perrault’s 18th-century fairy tale. Plundered by two Disney versions (animated in 1991; notionally ‘live action’ in 2017) that rinsed it of its eroticism and mystery, Cocteau’s still glows like a strange and lonely star.  Its uncanny visual highlights – living candelabras, the still-shocking appearance of the Beast himself (Jean Marais) – have the force of dreams, but Cocteau also finds magic in the everyday (as in the scenes of Belle hanging white sheets on the washing line). Josette Day plays Belle with self-possession, essential decency, and no trace of the ‘goody-goody’. One can actually see why she and the Beast fall in love – and Cocteau’s own celebration of Marais (his own long-time companion) is a romance in its own right. This is the only version of the story to get to the heart of the matter when – after the hairy wooer is transformed into human form – Belle asks, with a telling hint of deflation, ‘Where is my beast?’.

 

www.thelatedavidturpin.com 

Romances can be streamed/downloaded from Bandcamp at thelatedavidturpin.bandcamp.com/album/romances

 

Share

Reel Horror Show – Episode 14: Halloween Special

In this eerie episode of the Reel Horror Show, special ghoulish guest Stephen “Screaming ” Shields [writer, The Hole in the Ground] joins regular monstrous mutant hosts Conor “McMayhem” McMahon, Ali “Horror” Doyle and Conor “Howling” Dowling to open a coffin of consternation and carve up the corpse within.

Uv-voov shredded thistle organ… welcome.

In this episode, the ghastly gang talk about

  • “Screaming” Stephen’s debut horror feature, The Hole in the Ground, his horror influences & writing process
  • some horror-watching recommendations
  • a hefty look at IT: Chapter Two
  • chats from the set of Irish horror comedy Extra Ordinary
  • a preview of what’s screaming at this year’s Horrorthon at the IFI
  • the perfect double bill for Halloween viewing


Reel Horror Show

Film Ireland Podcasts

 

Share

Rob Kennedy, Writer / Director of ‘The Unquiet ‘

 

The Unquiet is a psychological horror film about Ruth, a woman who wants a child more than anything—yet she’s unable to conceive. When her mother begins to suffer from dementia, Ruth becomes her full time carer. This adds extra strain to Ruth’s marriage, and her husband moves out. Desperate to have a child and save her relationship, she prays to her father’s spirit for guidance, but something else answers…

Rob Kennedy takes us behind the screams of his latest horror, which screens at this year’s IFI Horrorthon (24 -28 October).

We shot The Unquiet with a skeleton crew: I directed and operated camera, Andrew Mahon did the lighting, and Billy Keane recorded sound. Vicki Walsh handled production management, recruiting her sister, Sophie, for the job of clapper loader and their mother, Susan, for make-up. We shot the film over the course of three nights in the winter of 2019. 

My last film (Sit Beside Me) was more of a rollercoaster horror experience. This time I took a different approach—less camera movement and no jump scares. One of the big decisions I made was not to use any music, a challenge for horror. But it’s easy to jolt an audience with sudden bangs and musical stings. Instead I enhanced the natural atmosphere and let the unnerving silences stand out. This seemed to suit the tone of the film more. 

Katie Doyle—a former child actor and veteran of TV adverts—recently returned to acting, appearing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the New Theatre. Katie took the role of Ruth above and beyond what was on the page. Beryl Phelan, a longtime collaborator of mine, played Ruth’s mother. Rounding out the cast, I’m thrilled to introduce young Robbie Hart in his first film role. We only hear Robbie’s voice, but he makes quite an impact. 

 

The Unquiet will screen at this year’s IFI Horrorthon (24 – 28 October) in the IFI on Sunday, 27th October—along with Rob’s last short, Sit Beside Me. You can buy tickets here

 

The Unquiet will also be available to watch online from this Halloween. Check out @robkennedyfilm on Instagram for updates and behind the scenes shots.

Share