Happy St. Patrick’s Day: 5 Great Films from Irish Directors

Happy St Patrick’s Day to everyone who hails from the Emerald Isle! Though in passing years this holiday has become one of those celebrations where people guzzle on Guinness in clothes dyed green and try to speak in the worst Irish accents imaginable (but we all know, that award goes to Gerard Butler in P.S. I Love You. He doesn’t even seem to try!) But it is also a day to celebrate everything Irish.

And what better way than to talk about the greatest artistic minds who have brought us some classic films of our time?

Here are some great Irish films from great Irish directors.

Tom Moore – Song of the Sea 

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You may have been lurking around award seasons and festivals with this wonderful animation bounding around the lips of critics and audiences. Not seen by enough people, Song of the Sea is a film that would have won the Oscar (it was nominated) had we not seen Disney or Ghibli in our midsts. That being said, Tom Moore’s gorgeous film should be seen by many. Told in traditional imagery, the movie enthuses the blissfully sublime animation and tells the story of Ben and Saoirse who use a magically shell to communicate with creatures of the ocean. It is gorgeous, compelling and altogether, breath-taking.

Martin McDonagh – In Bruges 

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There is comedy. And then there are shit-hot comedies that produce award winning hilarity repeatedly and still boasts a visceral story as well. Martin McDonagh, a dual heritage Irish director (alongside English, because we all can share), has certainly made an impact with the impeccable dark comedy film In Bruges. Having Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell romp over Brussels whilst a murderous cockney gangster in the form of Ralph Fiennes pursues them. It’s a winning combination of the actors and writing that makes In Bruges an excellent, feverish film that captivates and sends you on this almost mad-happed journey. It’s just fantastic and therefore, everyone should watch it.

Lenny Abrahamson – Frank

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In my opinion, films that split audiences down the middle are certainly incredible. Mainly because they bring up such heated debates. Frank is one of those independents that, similar to Filth, found a niche audience who loved it despite its detractors. What works with Frank is Michael Fassbender’s Paper-Mached lead singer, the titular Frank, and his utterly passionate and somewhat naïve stand on his music. Compared to Domhnall Gleeson’s more fame and glory stance, the pair make an enticing double act that, through this oddly spirited movie that has this poignant finale that is sure to hit you in the stomach with emotion.

Jim Sheridan – My Left Foot 

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One of the first films that Daniel Day-Lewis worked on and catapulted him to the Oscar glory we know him for, My Left Foot. Directed by the astonishing Jim Sheridan, My Left Foot revolves around the true story of writer Christy Brown who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He would develop his craft despite the illness (despite doesn’t feel like the right word,) and would go on to write and paint using his working appendage, the titular left foot. Endearing, this film has a solid performance at the centre of it with a greatly rich story that is enhanced by Sheridan’s direction.

John Michael McDonagh – Calvary 

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Last year’s Best Film that was sorely missing from award season was John Michael McDonagh’s phenomenal Calvary. Leading a stellar cast is Brendan Gleeson (who, for what it’s worth, won Best Actor at the BIFA’s this year,) as a priest with a death sentence when someone declares they are going to kill him. This is less a “whodunit” but more of the Father’s understanding of his town and trying to extrapolate his own guilty as well as soothe the pain of people around him. The stunning and shocking conclusion on the beach is greatly done too. Calvary is essentially a drama but with this dry humour surrounding it and evocative plot. It is a well-crafted testament to McDonagh’s talents.


Happy St Patrick’s Day!

The Olive Tree – Review

by Jamie Garwood

Iciar Bollain, the acclaimed director from Spain, returns with a poignant story about a determined young woman on a journey. With a screenplay written  by her partner Paul Laverty (Sweet Sixteen, The Wind that Shakes the Barley); El Olive (The Olive Tree) tells the story of tenacious Alma (Anna Castillo) who embarks on a journey from her home town near Valencia on the East Coast of Spain to Germany in order to retrieve an ancient olive tree precious to her ailing grandfather.

Encountering new acquaintances and with the help of two valuable friends, Alma learns a lot about herself and the virtue of honesty and the consequences that arise from with-holding the truth to those you love.

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Bollain shoots with a vibrancy to match her leading lady, Spain looks gorgeous in the sunshine throughout in contrast to the gloomier grey of Germany upon arrival where they discover the tree in the lobby of a big energy firm that has used the tree as their company logo.  Laverty writes this as a David v Goliath clash reminiscent of the work he has done with Ken Loach, and there is a hint of Bread and Roses (2000) here.

However, like many films, the story is not about the end result of the journey but how you got there and who with; Alma learns a lot more about her family especially her uncle Alcachofa (Javier Gutierrez) and finds love with selfless Rafa (Pep Ambros).

Bollain is lucky in that she has three capable actors at her disposal, the scenes involving the three in the cab of the truck they take to Germany are vital to the flow and spirit of the film (there is a great dialogue scene when the penny drops on the two men outside of the energy company and Alcachofa asks Rafa, ‘So this is our fault?’ a token line but delievered impeccably); there is no over-sentimental streak fighting to get out, there is a naturalness to proceedings that combines with the lightness.

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Other films may have used an overbearing soundtrack for a crucial phone call near the film’s end, instead Bollain rightly utilises the look in the eyes between Gutierrez and Castillo to speak volumes and garner the universal message.

A film that is fleeting in its message but nevertheless has universal themes that will steal your heart and stay with you long after you hear the last greenfinch.


The Olive Tree is released from Eureka Entertainment on Friday 17th March.