It's been a super Irish week for me. All Dropkick Murphys and corned beef and Irish breakfasts and Chieftains and MiWadi and fish & chips and Hula Hoops and Guinness. So I thought we should have a little round up of some awesome Irish films. Okay - there are plenty that I haven't seen (The Field and The Commitments come to mind), but here are a few that may not have been on the radar over here in the U.S. that you may enjoy.
Six Shooter. I'm not including In Bruges since it takes place... in Bruges... but Martin McDonagh is wildly brilliant and I adore him. I've loved every one of his plays that I've seen (The Pillowman, the Lieutenant of Inishmore, A Behanding in Spokane). I cannot wait for Seven Psychopaths. His pitch-black humor feels immensely Irish to me. Anyhoo, as wonderful as In Bruges is, this is his short which won an Oscar. More to the point, you can go watch it right now.
The Escapist. Okay - this one is an honorable mention. It's set in London, but was filmed in Kilmainham Gaol and Dublin, with only a few scenes shot in London. But it never got a proper release and I LOVE this movie and want as many people to see it as possible. Plus, it has Liam Cunningham... so... Irish! From my previous review; "it is hands down my favorite film I’ve seen this year... It stars Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Dominic Cooper, Seu Jorge, Liam Cunningham, and Damian Lewis. Can we pause for a moment and appreciate that cast? It’s wildly original and Brian Cox gives an astounding career-high performance."
The Magdalene Sisters. This movie is devastating. I picked it as a top film of the oughts. It is based on the horrifying true story of the Magdalene laundries, where girls were sent to do hard labor for getting pregnant, being raped, or being deemed 'too flirtatious'. The film is harrowing and eloquent, and the acting is terrific all around.
Instead of posting the trailer, I'm posting the first scene, because I really like this song. (But, um, if you keep watching, you'll see that it gets into the subject matter right off.)
Perrier's Bounty. Okay. This is one of the slight films on the list, but I can't help but love it. It's Cillian Murphy on the run from Brendan Gleeson's Dublin mobster. Jim Broadbent is hilarious as as Cillian's father who is convinced he will die the next time he falls asleep. Jody Whittaker (Attack the Block) is the love interest and Gabriel Byrne provides narration.
Hunger. Yeah, there's a reason it's in the Criterion Collection. This is an amazing film. Coming from the visual arts world, I think Steve McQueen moved into film-making both with grace and a unique sensibility, which makes this staggering to watch. Michael Fassbender is brilliant, the camera work is brilliant, and it has one of my favorite scenes of all time between Fassbender and Liam Cunningham.
Ondine. As I wrote previously; "This is directed by Neil Jordan, who also did Interview with a Vampire and Breakfast on Pluto, which I love. It was filmed around County Cork (which surprised me - I had guessed it was all out West). Either way, the scenery is stunningly gorgeous and Jordan and his cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, take the time to show off the natural beauty of the region. It is a gorgeous film to watch.
The film centers around Syracuse, a down-on-his-luck fisherman (well played by Colin Farrell who suppresses his normal manic energy). He pulls a girl out of the water one day and his handicapped daughter believes the girl to be a Selkie, or Celtic mermaid. Selkies have definitive rules associated with them (I'd like to thank my Mermaid book from when I was a child for familiarizing me with the legend), and the enigmatic girl seems to fit these rules. While the film is partially a magical fairy-tale, it stays grounded enough in reality to keep from becoming too precious. Most of the realism stems from Syracuse's relationship with his ex-wife and his struggle to overcome a hard-drinking past in order to support his daughter.
Ondine isn't a great drama, but for a whimsical, lovely diversion, it is certainly well worth watching."
And speaking of... Breakfast on Pluto. I do like the Japanese (?) poster for this. My review; "It stars Ireland. (No, really. Think of an Irish actor. Got it? Trust me, he's in it.) It actually stars Cillian Murphy as Patrick Kitten Braden, a transgender Irish youth growing up in the 1970s. Patty refuses to take things seriously, despite the Troubles, and the film is likewise fanciful and endearing. I think Cillian's golden globe nod was well-deserved."
Kisses. Two Irish children run away from home and spend a night on the streets of Dublin. A minor fairytale set against a bleak urban backdrop.
The Guard. From Martin McDonagh's brother, John. In my round up of 2011 films I said, "But there was a good reason for Brandan Gleeson to be at the Golden Globes; he gets a role that he really tears into and he is excellent in it. Set in the West of Ireland, Gleeson plays a world-weary, foul-mouthed cop who may or may not be stupid like a fox. The criminals (including Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong) are hilarious. A very sharp, smart crime drama"
The Fighter. Okay. Seeing as it is St. Patrick's day, I feel like we need some Boston Irish on this list. The Town and the Departed would also work well for the more gangster-minded.
The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Winner of the Palme D'Or at Cannes, and with good reason. As I wrote when I included it in my top 20 of the 00s: "it paints a devastating portrait of the moral ambiguity of war – in this case, the war of Irish Independence. Brilliant through and through."