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Irish cinema has really blossomed in the past few years. In the 90s and early 2000s, (outside of Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan’s work) one could synonymise the country’s output with adjectives like cheap, stuffy and slog. For whatever reason though – increased investment in the industry, multiple film production studios, government funded schemes – the movies being produced now feel far more exciting, diverse and urgent.
Movies like A Date for Mad Mary, Handsome Devil, Sing Street and The Young Offenders are charming comedy-dramas that can appeal to the masses. Cardboard Gangsters and Michael Inside are gripping thrillers which also highlight some of the problems of modern Ireland. On top of that, Irish talent is heavily involved in Oscar heavy hitters like Brooklyn, Room and Three Billboards. That’s all even without mentioning the Irish new-horror movement of films like A Dark Song, Citadel, Without Name or this year’s The Cured, which took zombie film tropes and transformed them into a surprisingly satisfying allegory for the European migrant crisis.
This month marks the release of two important and impressive new movies to add to this list. To celebrate their releases, the following is a list of Ireland’s cinematic output still to come this year for which film fans should be excited.
The first of these two new June releases is Kissing Candice, the debut feature film from music video director Aoife McArdle (U2’s Every Breaking Wave). An incredibly expressive Ann Skelly (Red Rock) stars as Candice, a teenager living in a one-horse-town somewhere in the boarder counties with her troubled policeman father, Donal (The Fall’s John Lynch). Suffering from severe seizures, she retreats into fantasies where she becomes intimate with a mysterious man. Things get complicated, however, when Candice meets literally the man from her dreams, Jacob (Ryan Lincoln), a former member of a ruthless local gang who Donal wants to put behind bars. Having turned on his partners in crime, the criminals want revenge – targeting the titular character.
As Andrew Carroll notes in his yet to be published review of the film, Kissing Candice is something of a rarity in Irish cinema – a mood piece. While there is a narrative at its core, it’s not really what the viewer takes away. Instead, McArdle’s gorgeous, memorable visuals simply wash over viewers. These include a burning toy house in the middle of a road, a man walking stoically as his arm is on fire, a partier’s creepy mask at a neon-drenched nightmare rave. Through these and many other sensorial images, McArdle touches upon many themes – loss of innocence, disenfranchised youth, the knock-on effects of The Troubles. For those wishing that Irish directors produced something more arthouse and adventurous, Kissing Candice hits the spot with its emphasis on mood over story.
Release Date: June 22
Playwright, poet and actor Emmet Kirwan adapted his own play Dublin Oldschool into a movie of the same name, also out in June. Central character Jason (Kirwan), an aspiring DJ, teeters on the brink of self-destruction with his hard-partying lifestyle, made possible by coke, E and ketamine. However, over a particularly packed weekend of raves, police drug busts and running into an ex – he reconnects with his estranged brother, Daniel (Ian Lloyd Anderson), a heroin addict roaming the Dublin capital.
Having caught an advance screening, fans of the play – which was solely a two hander with Kirwan and Anderson – wondered aloud to me how the theatre experience could be adapted to a movie. The answer: hire a director (in this case debut feature filmmaker and co-writer of the screenplay Dave Tynan) to amp up of the visuals. The strobe light raves, police chases and shots of a bustling capital city not only are cinematic, they rival Trainspotting. Parts of Dublin nightlife – secret raves, drug heavy afterseshes, the next morning visit to the pub to take the edge off – have never been more authentically evoked.
Plus, while the play saw Kirwan and Anderson use different voices to give impression of more than two people , the film’s cast is stretched to include some terrific up and coming actors like Liam Heslin, Sarah Greene and Seana Kerslake. However, its Kirwan who really shines in a star-making turn, making his self-deluded character oddly enduring. It’s he and Anderson who transform Dublin Oldschool from just a great slice of Dublin life to something much deeper. This will be a huge hit.
Release Date: June 29
The Little Stranger
We move now to the films I have not seen. The first of which is The Little Stranger, the latest from Lenny Abrahamson – the director whose films like Adam & Paul and Garage were the first of this new Irish cinema. This sees the filmmaker, who has mostly worked in comedy and drama move, into horror by adapting Sarah Waters 2009 gothic novel of the same name.
Ireland’s most versatile actor Domhnall Gleeson stars in the 1940s set UK period piece as a country doctor named Faraday. He is called to a mansion where his mother once worked to treat a member of the rich Ayres family suffering from PTSD. Strange things begin to occur in the house as Faraday uncovers some dark secrets.
The trailer for this dropped last week. While it doesn’t seem utterly terrifying, it looks as though The Little Stranger will be a gorgeous, well-told, spooky ghost story a la Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak. Ireland has such a rich history of gothic literature. One hopes Abrahamson will be able to conjure up some of the same magic for his film.
Release Date: August 31
For such a major event in Irish history, there has been no film about the famine. That’s enough to spark interest in Black 47, directed by Lance Daly. However, once one hears it’s also a Western with a cast featuring Hugo Weaving, Barry Keoghan, Moe Dunford, Stephen Rea and Sarah Greene again, it begins to sound more like must-see viewing.
James Frecheville (Animal Kingdom) stars as an Irish ranger named Feeney who returns home to Connemara after fleeing his post in the British army. Upon arrival, he discovers that his family has been evicted and his mother and brother have died in the famine. He goes to seek revenge for those responsible. All the while Feeney’s former comrade, Hannah (Weaving), is recruited to hunt him down for deserting.
While buzz from the international festival circuit has been mixed, Headstuff’s own Sarah Cullen wrote for Film Ireland after this year’s ADIFF screening that Black 47 is ‘a rollicking western with fantastic action and excellent performances.’ At the very least, the movie should appeal to the patriotic side of Irish audiences who loved In the Name of the Father, Michael Collins and last year’s Maze.
Release Date: September 7
Ireland’s greatest director Neil Jordan returns for his first film in six years with The Widow. Working in the horror genre once again (The Company of Wolves, Interview with a Vampire, Byzantium), the film stars Chloe Grace Moretz and Isabelle Huppert. Plot details have been kept scarce. However, we do know a young woman (Moretz) returns an elderly widow (Huppert) her lost purse, leading to an unlikely relationship. That is until the young woman discovers her elder might not be all that she seems.
The little we know of the plot sounds intriguing. Isabelle Huppert is always wonderful. However, what’s most exciting about this film is Jordan returning to a genre he excels in. Even his dramas The Crying Game, Mona Lisa and particularly The Butcher’s Boy have moments which tend to get under once skin and disturb. Teaming with Irish DoP Seamus McGarvey (Nocturnal Animals), it will be interesting to see whether one of the first acclaimed Irish directors can still keep up with the new talent like McArdle, Kirwan and Tynan.
Release Date: TBA