The US film industry has always welcomed foreign films, many of which we have copied with a more American version, but often over looked by its neighbors in Ireland, which has a rich and great film history besides the stereotypical ideas of leprechauns and Riverdance. In the last few years Ireland has not only produced some fine films (Once, Brooklyn) but we also see a rise in excellence in Irish performers like Cillian Murphy, Saoirse Ronan, Michael Fassbender , Brendan Gleeson and Lenny Abrahamson.
Irish eyes are smiling on these recent films:
PG-13 | Director Jim Sheridan
Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton, Djimon Hounsou
In America is a moving story of an Irish family struggling to make their start in New York City. It clearly and blatantly tries to make you laugh, cry and feel, and luckily it succeeds in a way that never feels cheesy. In America will surprise you with its perceptive ability to portray the hardships of being far away from a beloved home. Tackling difficult and heavy topics like religion, drugs and death, In America remains an uplifting movie, offering condolences and hope at the end of the film.
THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY
NR | Director Ken Loach
Cillian Murphy, Pádraic Delaney, Liam CunninghamIn
Returning to the always rousing theme of independence and revolution, this film follows two brothers during the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. The movie goes deep into the ideals of social versus political motives behind the two wars, digging deep into the essence of what inspires and diversifies Ireland. Themes of class struggle and nationalism drive The Wind That Shakes the Barley and features a stunning, star-making performance from Cillian Murphy. While it may be good to take its historical accuracy with a grain of salt, the film’s themes and romantic idealism are hard to shake.
R | Director Steve McQueen | Michael Fassbender, Liam McMahon
Fassbender stars as Bobby Sands, the IRA volunteer who led the second hunger strike from prison during the 1970s. By taking an important and emotionally gripping moment from Ireland’s history, McQueen was able to take this uncompromising story and make it human, reflective and provocative. Bobby Sands’ story elevated the ability of people to overcome difficulties both mentally and physically, and Fassbender was able to bring the much needed determination and endurance to his character. Aside from being a solid and powerful piece of work, Hunger brought together the dynamic duo of McQueen and Fassbender.
R | Director John Michael McDonagh | Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd
The film follows the story of Father James, who struggles to remain loyal to his faith and inspire others after the Catholic church abuse scandal is revealed. Calvary benefits from addressing its topic in a sensitive and non-condescending way, yet still struggles not to give in to the weary and depressing nature of the story. But the real revelation here is Gleeson. In a career-defining, yet widely unseen role, Gleeson gives a radiant and impassioned performance that will be hard to top in the next few years. An important and thought-provoking film, Calvary is a terrific movie to think over after seeing the Academy Award-winning Spotlight.
R | Director Lenny Abrahamson
Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson
An eclectic black comedy, surprisingly based on a true story, Frank tells the story of the weird and enigmatic, titular musician, who never takes off a papier-mâché head. Oscar-nominated Lenny Abrahamson was able to give the movie its much needed direction and quirkiness that made Frank great. Starring Michael Fassbender in another difficult performance, Fassbender was able to make Frank a multi-faceted persona without ever showing his face, effectively utilizing dialogue and his hands to explore the full range of the character. Unseen by many, Frank is one Irish film that should not be underestimated for its powerful humor and performances.