Not Reviews, but  reviewlets!  I’ve been tweeting about them as I saw them, and if you haven’t yet, please follow us at @nyirisharts.

New York:  At Film Festivals people come over.  I love seeing the cast and directors wandering around the village.
Irish:  All of these films are by or about Irish subjects…

1.  The Lotus Eaters, by Alexandra McGuinness.  Oh dear.  I like her and wanted to like this, but the characters are vapid and dull– not just bored and young, but shallow.   And the plot goes all over the place.   Music’s great though, and I liked Johnny Flynn as the poor doomed junkie.  Well-meaning actor in q&a brought up Evelyn Waugh’s bright young things.  Nice thought, but these characters aren’t bright, and Waugh makes shallow people interesting.  Grade:  C

2.   The Hideaways, by Agnés Merlet.  Beautiful, funny, sweet and sad.  A fable about a boy from a cursed family with an Irish script and a French director.  The language and sense of humor was Irish, but it all looked very French to me, particularly the sense of sex as pastoral and healing.  Grade:  A

3.  The Guard, directed by John Michael McDonagh.  Orignal, hilarious, gorgeous looking and weird kinda buddy cop film.  Displays Irish humor at its most offbeat, as well as smarts.  And the visuals of Connemara are stunning (great advertisement, really). And leads to a really exciting shoot ’em up.  John clearly has a similar sensibility to his playwright brother Martin (who exec produces).  Interviewing him tomorrow!  Actress Fionnula Flanagan is in this one too (we interviewed her for Kill the Irishman, and we’ll have to have her back.  Brendan Gleeson is brilliant as quixotic cop Gerry Boyle:  “would you feck off to America with your fecking ‘appropriate’, Barack Obama,” he sneers at an earnest young garda down from Dublin.  Don Cheadle’s perfect as an uptight FBI man.  People at the Press Screening roared at every line.  Grade:  A+

Reviewlets of The Good DoctorThe Swell Season (LOVED it), Blackthorn and Switch after the jump!

4.  The Good Doctor, by Lance Daly.  Orlando Bloom is so sympathetic (though not really all that dweeby looking even with a bad, dark haircut) that you like him even as he crosses ethical line after ethical line (switching a teenager’s meds so she’ll stay sick and in the hospital, to start).  He still seems like Just a Lonely Guy, when on reflection, he’s kind of a nutcase.     Grade:  B

5The Swell Season, by Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins, Carlo Mirabella-Davis.  This documentary about Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglová post-Oscar was short over three years of touring, and it is hands down the best music movie about the toll of the touring life I’ve ever seen.  It also hauntingly shows how these characters are meant for each other and how they need to grow apart, without anything like the staged pyrotechnics in reality tv.  This is one to keep and own.  Grade:  A+

6.  Blackthorn, by Mateo Gil.  What’s Irish about this is Stephen Rea as Mackinley, the sheriff who tracks Butch Cassidy to Bolivia and stays there through middle age.  But Sam Shepard is Butch, and Stephen and Sam have been working together at the Abbey and then the Public, so it’s possible that the film wouldn’t have happened without the Irish connection.  Visually arresting, with strong performances from Rea and Shepard, and an ambiguous ending.  Funnier and less dreary than movies about middle-aged heroes usually are.  Grade:  A-

I’ve only seen one of the Irish shorts so far, Thomas Hefferon’s Switch.  The story of a comatose girl whose mother dresses her and moves her around, eyes open but unseeing, told by the man who caused the accident that put her there, has a redemptive quality that made me cry.  When I write up the full reviews I’ll cover the other shorts that were in the Take As Directed bill.  Grade:  A.  Cause if you can move me to tears, you get an A.

I’m going to miss Pentecost by Peter McDonald at TFF because one of the films shown with it is called Dead Cat.  I adore animals.  If an animal is in jeopardy or hurt in a film I can no longer pay attention to the story.  There is a kitten in one of the shorts in Take As Directed and I worried about it constantly.  (I’m happy to say it survives).  I will not listen to Irish songs from the point of view of the poor sad hare, or about whales; I just can’t take it. Fortunately for me, as Louise Ryan, Marketing Director for the Irish Film Board, says on this week’s podcast, all of the Irish shorts in the Festival are available on their website, so I’ll catch Pentecost there!

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.