Film review: Choosing Signs

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How It’s New York:  The film premiered at the inaugural Golden Egg festival in New York’s Tribeca Cinemas, where it won best feature.ChosngSigns costars, Owen Dara and Jessica Lancaster

How It’s Irish: Set in Cork, it’s a love story between a local and an American woman who has moved to Ireland.

“Choosing Signs” is about a woman who lets her life, and the central decision of who to spend it with, be dictated by the flimsiest of “signs” from The Universe. Though the plot is often implausible, the telling of the tale is so sweet and frequently funny that you allow yourself to be taken.

You fall for the impishly, charming hero, Eamon (Owen Dara)–speaking for women, at least! So, you root for him to get the girl, Jennifer (Jessica Lancaster), who has yoked herself to a laughably shallow archetype of the Celtic Tiger offering her financial security at a high price.

Jennifer is surrounded by male madness. The socially acceptable version is  Mark (Stiofan Wyley), her live-in partner; the other is her brother, Matty (Jeremiah Ocanas), a patient in the psychiatric hospital where Eamon works.  Both Mark and Matty are obsessed: Mark with wringing the last cent out of immigrants by cramming them into miniature apartments; Matty with mechanical inventions that have no commercial value.

Echoosingsignspicamon is light relief from their intensity and comes across as the true representative of Ireland. Mark and Jennifers’ Russian immigrant housekeeper, Svetlana (Betsy Douds) adds to the fun of a very playful film through her dourness.

Moreover, this feature film was screened after a bleak short film set in The States (“Wracked”). The net effect was to make the portrayal of Ireland seems so idyllic in “Choosing Signs” that you’d wonder was it stealth marketing for The Gathering—an Irish tourism marketing effort whereby all those with connections to Ireland and “invited” to visit in 2013!

Eamon engineers his way into Jennifer’s heart with a kind of childlike innocence. He secures his first date with her by phoning up and acting as if she had suggested it. Realizing that she finds Irish (Gaelic) romantic, he recites a “poem” that is, really, him counting to ten and back—seemingly his full repertoire in the language.

When the audience finally reaches the sexual culmination it has been seeking, the scene is again playful. The screen fades to black and Jennifer’s voiceover “Oh my God, Oh my God!” But it’s not what you think. The lights come back. Eamon is lying back, happy. Jennifer is sitting bolt upright, pressing the quilt to her bare chest, asking herself, “What have I done?!”

What Dara, particularly, has done is very impressive. He wrote, directed, produced and acted in this, his first feature film, as well as composing and singing the music. And all this on $25,000.

Dara’s co-producer was Lancaster, who is his partner in real life. The autobiographical similarities end there, the couple says.

“” won best feature in the festival, albeit as one of just two feature films among the 24 shown. Douds also won Best Supporting Actress as Svetlana.

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Copyright 2013 New York Irish Arts