Rosie (2019)

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Direction: Paddy Breathnach
Country: Ireland

The low-budgeted Irish indie drama Rosie addresses one of the biggest problems the world is facing today: gentrification. The situation mostly affects the bigger cities and can be seen as a new form of random human cruelty.

While her husband, John Paul (Moe Dunford), is working hard at a busy restaurant, Rosie Davis (Sarah Greene) is inside their parked car with her four children, making consecutive phone calls in an attempt to get a hotel for just a few nights. No, they are not planning vacations… the reality is much different and appalling; they became homeless after their landlord sold the house, a social injustice that is commonly disregarded by politicians who, many times, benefit themselves in the ‘ungovernable’ real-estate business. I’m so glad that New York gave some signs of progress recently regarding this matter, when a rent-reform package was approved to protect the frequently harassed tenants.

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The struggle is daily and the pressure is high. Fear and shame invade their lives, but they refuse to let frustration or panic take control. Besides the lack of stability and having to sleep in the car sometimes, the family was blessed by a strong loving bond. We never see these attentive, caring parents acting impatiently or aggressively toward their kids, even when they misbehave or rebel.

Despite some incautious hand-held camera movements, the director Paddy Breathnach (Viva) did a satisfying work in capturing a realistic scenario. He worked from a bold script by Roddy Doyle (The Commitments), who was inventive enough to put Lady Gaga staying at one of the hotels while gigging in town and turn a serious, sad moment into a fun battle of fries.

Depicting 36 stressful hours in these people's lives, the film doesn’t grant a resolution. However, it’s a heartbreaking, accurate, well-acted ride that made me think about how easily things can be lost in a moment and how miraculous love can be when in the face of desperate situations.

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Love and Friendship (2016)

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Directed by Whit Stillman
Country: Ireland / other

In “Love & Friendship”, Whit Stillman (“Damsels in Distress”) presents us a witty dramatization of Jane Austen’s epistolary novel ‘Lady Susan’, dated from 1871.
In this period romantic comedy, he pragmatically takes the first minutes to introduce the characters one by one, giving us, at the same time, a well-adjusted orientation in order to proceed with this funny tale.

Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), a widow of questionable reputation, arrives in Churchill to stay some time with her in-laws while beginning a campaign in order to find a wealthy husband for her daughter, Federica (Morfydd Clark), and for herself.
She feeds the spreading rumors that her personal choice falls on Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel), her sister-in-law’s attractive brother, with whom she engages in long conversations and strolls. He ends up deeply infatuated but is promptly rebuked by his father who is concerned about the family reputation and future.

In the meantime, and invoking the fifth commandment: ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’, which she mistakes by the fourth, the charming but scheming Lady Susan literally forces her daughter to accept marrying to the silly, chatty, wealthy, and hilarious Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett), who aids his future mother-in-law with money and a new carriage. ‘Nobody knows the embarrassment of a young girl without a fortune’, she says. However, the bashful Federica is anguished with the idea and seeks Reginald to take the weight out of her chest.

The story takes a spin and evolves into unexpected directions, always carrying flattering tones, beneficial seductions, and polite conversations.
Moreover, the amusing “Love & Friendship” is brilliantly acted (Ms. Beckinsale and Mr. Bennett truly excel) and shot, under the attentive direction of Mr. Stillman who knows how to consciously place delicious characters within irresistible frames. The pic is constantly adorned with warm colors and the right props of the period.

Sing Street (2016)

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Directed by John Carney
Country: Ireland / UK / USA

Dedicated to brothers everywhere, “Sing Street” is an Irish comedy-drama, directed by John Carney (“Once”, “Begin Again”), which straddles the line between homage and romance. If he did great in regard to the former, a wonderful tribute to the pop-rock scene of the 80’s, he stepped into crowd-pleasing territory in the latter.

Nevertheless, he comfortably shapes compelling characters and give them appropriate dimension by placing them amidst realistic situations that combine daily life problems, relationships, and talents. Then, and in a smart way, all these aspects are even more enhanced through the addition of appealing pop-rock original songs that are played by one or more personas. 
“Sing Street” employs this formula and goes even a little bit further by addressing themes such as family and school bullying.

The film, set in Dublin in 1985, opens by giving a perspective of the tense atmosphere lived at the Lalor’s. The catholic family is having some troubles in living peacefully together because the patriarch, Robert (Aidan Gillen), a broke architect, seems unsatisfied with his life while his wife, Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy), is having an affair. They have three children: Anne, who doesn’t have great expression in the story, Brendan (Jack Reynor), a depressed loser who doesn’t know what to do with his life, and the sensitive Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), who at the age of 15 resolves to form a pop-rock band after meeting the beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton) whose dream is to become a model. 
Enthusiastically, Conor, the vocalist, and his new friend Darren (Ben Carolan), the producer, make an important acquisition for the band: the multi-instrumentalist Eamon (Mark McKenna), who becomes his right hand in the composition process. The other three members arrive naturally, and they both agree on the name Sing Street for the band. Influenced by Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, The Cure, and many more, they record a first song entitled ‘The Riddle of the Model’, obviously inspired on Raphina who agrees to participate in the music video.
Despite having a cool dude as a boyfriend, Raphina becomes closer to Conor, giving him hope by responding affectively to his passionate impulses.
In the meantime, and besides the amorous frustrations, the brave Conor tries to find non-violent ways to deal with the frequent intimidations he’s been suffering at the new school. The villains are Barry (Ian Kenny), a troublesome boy, and Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley), the ridiculous school principal.

Carrying a strong, positive message, the film, so wonderfully captivating at times, ends up disappointing heavily in its finale. 
The talented Mr. Carney blurs the painting with the ultimate stroke. An unlikely conclusion that was more impetuous and strategic than genius.

Glassland (2014)

Glassland (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Gerard Barrett
Country: Ireland

Movie Review: Simultaneously plaintive and modest, “Glassland” is an Irish independent drama written, directed, and co-produced by Gerard Barrett, and starring Jack Reynor, Toni Collette, and Will Poulter. The story is set in a cheerless little Irish town where John (Reynor), a good-hearted taxi driver spends most of his time running after his desolated alcoholic mother, Jean (Collette), whose life is in danger due to serious liver damages. In the first scene, John arrives at home after work just to find Jean in her bed, vomited and in an alcoholic coma. He was able to save her at the last minute, a story that repeats itself for a long time. Extremely tired of the situation, John almost doesn’t believe in a different scenario anymore. Mother and son behave furiously by turns - at first it was Jean who loses control when she doesn’t find booze at home after returning from the hospital; and then was John who gets pissed off when Jean misses work and vanishes one more time, what means another long sleepless night looking for her. Next day he shouts angrily: ‘my mother smiles and loves. This is not my mother. This is an animal, and you’re breaking my heart every single day!’ John still finds the strength to visit his 18-year-old brother who was born with Dawn syndrome and was early abandoned by Jean in a care facility, right after her companion has turned his back on her when he found out about the child’s condition. In one of the saddest scenes of the film, the powerless John joins his mother in a drink at home, and the little party ends up in an extended, dispirited monologue, in which Jane clarifies some aspects of her life. A gleam of hope still burns in their hearts, but the financial means to maintain Jean under treatment is another issue that pushes John into obscure solutions. In parallel, we vaguely follow the path of John’s unmotivated best friend, Shane (Poulter), who gets more than happy to leave the lugubrious town. A few scenes are emotionally strong, but Mr. Barrett, more lucidly than boldly, arranged everything too easily in one direction (Jean’s recovery) and too vague in the other (the obscure side of John’s life). Accordingly, I got slightly disappointed when the final credits rolled, meaning that I expected something deeper from the ending and something that was less basic as the whole picture.

Brooklyn (2015)

Brooklyn (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Crowley
Country: Ireland / UK / Canada

Movie Review: Brooklyn is charmingly depicted in the John Crowley’s drama whose title matches exactly the name of the famous and most populous NYC’s borough. Directed with a remarkable accuracy without losing a bit of narrative fluidity, “Brooklyn” doesn’t just give you a precise idea of the place in the 50’s, but also functions as an ode to the thousands of Irish immigrants that departed from their country to find a better and more exciting life in the US. In Nick Hornby’s script, taken from Colm Tóibín’s novel, that’s exactly what happened to Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), who left her strict mother and fragile sister, Rose, in their provincial Irish town and decides to accept the kind offer of a priest who got her a legal job in Brooklyn. After a bumpy trip in a deplorable ship, the amenable Eilis goes to live in a feminine boarding house and is instantly struck by a severe homesickness until bumping into the love of her life. Toni (Emory Cohen) is an honest Italian-American plumber with whom she danced at an Irish ball. He shows to be a well-intentioned gentleman and invites her to meet his family just after a couple dates. She was warmly welcomed at his place, even taking into account the unpropitious and yet funny commentaries of Toni’s cheeky little brother. However, life plays its pranks and Eilis receives the sad news of her sister’s death. Before returning to Ireland, Eilis marries Toni in secrecy, holding onto promises that, if kept, envision a beautiful future for them. Unexpectedly, in her hometown, she starts working for a company in part-time and gets to know Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), who would be the perfect man for her if she had met him before. Flattered by this man’s endearing approach, and slightly confused, Eilis doesn’t seem ready to get back to her husband’s arms. Mr. Crowley, the author of “Boy A”, redeems himself from the tepid thriller “Closed Circuit” released two years ago, by conferring a classic profile to the drama, and conveying an acute sincerity through the actors’ performances. Saorsie Ronan and Emory Cohen couldn’t have been more genuine in their roles and that’s one of the reasons why the film doesn’t tickle in an emotional level… it rather punches you hard! “Brooklyn”, which is not limited to be another typical love story, offers historical insight and provides a unique experience that, at a time, feels painful, enriching, uncertain, and finally soothing and triumphant.

Queen and Country (2014)

Queen and Country (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Boorman
Country: Ireland / others

Movie Review: “Queen and Country” is John Boorman’s sequel to the awarded autobiographical “Hope and Glory”, which covered nearly the ten years before the happenings depicted here. In 1952 post-war England, Boorman’s alter-ego, Bill Rohen (Callum Turner), joins the army and starts the trainings for the Korean War, escaping whenever he’s on leave ‘to see the girls’, together with his best friend, Percy Hapgood (Caleb Landry Jones). During one of these escapades they go to a classical concert, but while Percy gets fascinated with the extroverted Sophie (Aimee Ffion-Edwards) and her friend, Bill only has eyes for a young girl whom he only sees the back of the head and neck. A few days after the concert, he sees her passing by the bar, and in an uncontrollable impulse, decides to talk to her. For this courageous act, the Oxford student, Ophelia (Tamsin Egerton) invites him to her aunt’s place for a drink. They become close friends, however, the next step into love was never consummated since Ophelia had different plans for the future. In parallel with his amorous passions we have access to a full insight of his life within the army, and the different kinds of relationships established with his superiors and colleagues – the unbending veteran Sgt. Major Bradley (David Thewlis) and the imponderable, lazy private Redmond (Pat Shortt), were two examples. The family also gets a small slice in the story, with Bill’s sister playing a relevant role. Globally, the film assembles modest episodes of the early life of the 82-year-old filmmaker, who recreates them in his own personal way and always with a funny touch. The lively Percy contributes with some jocular incidents that enrich substantially the whole. Deprived of action or intensive drama, “Queen and Country” works better as a comedy, and is more charming than revolutionary.

Love Eternal (2013)

Love Eternal (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Brendan Muldowney
Country: Ireland

Movie Review: Adapted from a Japanese novel written by Kei Oishi, the Irish dark drama “Love Eternal” generated a duality of feelings that confront each other. Although sometimes it seems ridiculously out of sense, others it feels like a gentle, meditative portrait of a grotesque taste for death. The story focuses on Ian, a depressive young man who spent 10 years locked at home, after a few traumatic experiences related with death - at an early age he sees his father die when he was playing with him, and years later he finds a young girl hanged in a tree. The best thing his reticent mother could do before die was writing a sort of guide to helping him with the most basic things, including a list of things to avoid in order to feel better, how to cook and also deal with his finances. Ian, completely obsessed by death, starts to meet up with some Internet forum friends who share the same desire to die. At the same time that studies the process of decomposition of human body, he helps a fellow girl ending her life, bringing her dead body home, and even taking it for a good walk outside in a sunny day. Filmmaker Brendan Muldowney decided to use an awkward music and narration, turning “Love Eternal” into a taciturn, melancholic exercise that could have created a better impact on me, if only I were able to establish some kind of sympathy for its main character. Unfortunately (or not!) that didn’t happen, and “Love Eternal”, with its pseudo-atmospheric story and indistinct dynamism, just let me a bit sleepy.

Calvary (2014)

Calvary (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: John Michael McDonagh
Country: Ireland / UK

Movie Review: Miles away from the cheerfulness and hilarity of “The Guard”, “Calvary” is another stimulating effort from English-born (of Irish descent) filmmaker John Michael McDonagh, this time in a dark drama with religious connotations. The film starts with a man confessing to a priest he was raped by another priest as a child. He asks which remedy will ease his pain and threatens to kill the priest next Sunday; the priest nothing has to say to him at the moment. The well-natured priest is Father James Lavelle who grieves with the problems of the inhabitants of his small Irish country town, while hosts his vulnerable daughter, Fionna, after a suicide attempt. Then we are introduced to a lot of problematic different characters. Some of them are connected with evil forces, some of them are really repented of their sins, and others are just good souls trying to balance an unbalanced world. As Father James is going through his calvary we wonder if he will definitively have to be sacrificed for the sins of others and his church, or if he will be able to help such desperate souls. The film exposes loss of faith, the roles and responsibilities we have in this world, and reaches us with forgiveness, the final and necessary conclusion for such a dark film. McDonagh’s direction was praiseworthy often using close-ups to emphasize the characters feelings, and Brendan Gleeson’s performance was compelling enough to make you want to see this film, even considering a slow start that only gains bigger proportions in its last third. “Calvary” won the Berlinale’s Panorama prize attributed by the Ecumenical Jury.

Mister John (2013)

Mister John (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Joe Lawlor, Christine Molloy
Country: Ireland / UK / Singapore

Movie Review: “Mister John” is an Irish/UK/Singapore subtle thriller directed by husband-and-wife duo Joe Lawlor and Christy Molloy. The film opens with the image of a body floating in a Singapore’s lakeshore. The victim is John, an Irish man who ran a night bar in Singapore with his wife Kim (Zoe Tay). The latter will meet her brother-in-law, Jeff (Aiden Gillen), who arrived at the hospital to identify the body and later to attend to his brother’s funeral. Having some problems with his wife back in London, the overtired Jeff gets dangerously closer to Kim, while trying to find more about the death occurred in mysterious circumstances. Suspicions fall in one of John’s best friends, Lester, but all the insinuations are both inconclusive and deceivable. Without much to do, Jeff still has time to interview young girls to be hired for Kim’s hostess bar called ‘Mister Johns’, after has been bitten by a snake. Most of these happenings were wrapped in dreamlike tones, and were causing Jeff’s pain and lack of control. The complexity of the main character oscillates between real and calculated, and the same happens with the plot – we never know what to count with or where the things are going. This could be an advantage, but in this particular case it didn’t work out satisfactorily. During its non-shocking final minutes, I had the sensation that all was too shallow to hide any profound secret. Gillen and Tay’s performances were acceptable, while direction showed positive aspects, hopefully to be used in a stronger future plot.

Run and Jump (2013)

Run and Jump (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Steph Green
Country: Ireland / Germany

Movie Review: After “New Boy”, an acclaimed short film dated from 2007, filmmaker Steph Green makes her debut feature with “Run and Jump”, a sweet and gentle drama that doesn’t try to take any emotional advantage of Ailbhe Keogan’s screenplay (also a solid debut). Instead, it presents us a sober approach, expressing a lot of feelings in its own way and being touchy in a legitimate manner. Mother of two kids, Vanetia Casey (Maxine Peak) is a frustrated and exhausted Irish housewife who accepts to host Ted Fielding (Will Forte) in her house for a while. Ted is an American doctor interested to make a case study of her husband, Conor (Edward MacLiam) who, at the age of 38, suffered a stroke that caused him deep personality alterations. Ted, little by little, starts to be a crucial figure inside the house, not only weaving a strong connection with Vanetia, but also with her lonely son, Lenny, who entered in a complicated process of self-discovery (perhaps an avoidable subplot). The ability here was not to rush things, but let them flow with sensibility and plainness. What I liked in Green’s approach was that the film never stepped into overused melodramatic scenes, choosing to look at the problems in a positive and non-manipulative way. The pleasant score fitted well in the mood intended, while in the visual aspect “Run and Jump” was able to pull out vivid colors from the lively, luminous frames. Peak was very believable in her performance, while Forte, after a great participation in “Nebraska”, demonstrates his adaptability.

Silence (2012)

Silence (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Pat Collins
Country: Ireland / Germany

Movie Review: Structured like a docudrama, “Silence” is a vague and occasionally haunting exercise on sound and childhood memories. Documentarian Pat Collins makes here an enigmatic transition into fiction to tell the subliminal experiences of Eoghan, a sound recordist now living in Germany, who goes back to its origins in Ireland, 15 years after his departing. With the single purpose to find and record places completely forgot by men, Eoghan has a few casual encounters and meaningful conversations with strangers who, deep down inside are just like him, solitary souls populating desolated landscapes. Ponderous, philosophical, visually and auditorily absorbing, “Silence”, might seem narrow in terms of plot for many viewers, but can stir some emotions and provoke our minds somehow. Sometimes it makes us fall in the nostalgic torpor of the mountain field’s tranquility, just to overwhelm us again with the sepia tones of an old video recording of a fishermen’s boat and a dog’s drowning in the sea, or the visit to a local museum that keeps record of documents and photographs of families that had to abandon their island, or a young man who brings to Eoghan’s mind the dilemmas of leaving home. After “Berberian Sound Studio” has used the factor sound in a completely different way, now is the time of “Silence” emerge with a much more deep conception and approach. Do we have a new trend on modern independent film? I don’t think so, but this one may offer something worthwhile if you have sufficient patience for its quietness.