Friday 23 August 2019

Film of the week: Wild Rose

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Jessie Buckley goes for glory
Jessie Buckley goes for glory
14-year-old Marsai Martin - lifts the film

Kerry may be better known for tweed-capped TDs and footballing glory, but all that is likely to change thanks to ginger locks, determined eyes and a powerful set of lungs.

Following her head-turning contention in Andrew Lloyd Webber's 2008 reality contest I'd Do Anything, it was clear that Jessie Buckley had genuine star factor. After promising turns here and there, it was a starring role in Michael Pearce's 2017 moody UK drama Beast that proved that she also came equipped with lead-role chops that were comfortable with niggly material. Both aspects of the twinkle-eyed Killarney native are now brought together - resulting in a full-on star-making outing that will be remembered as the moment she properly broke through.

Buckley is a potty-mouthed, heel-stomping blaze of guff and ambition as Rose-Lynn, a country and western singer from council-flat Glasgow.

Just out from a stretch for violent and disorderly conduct, Rose is now dead-set on hitting the city lights of Nashville and becoming a star. In order to do so, she'll have to keep her bib clean with her parole officer, find a way into a notoriously difficult industry, and stay on good terms with her two young kids and despairing mother Marion (Julie Walters), all of whom are losing patience with her brash carry-on. It's going to involve sleeves being rolled up if she is to fulfil her destiny. The problem is that she'll inevitably put her foot in it or allow those "colourful" sides of her character to upset someone....

Directed with vim and vigour by Tom Harper from a first big-screen foray for TV writer Nicole Taylor, Wild Rose is a big, bold and brassy night out that brings together music, fun, poignancy, and some good ol' Celtic sass in triumphant style.

Walters is in particularly excellent form - though Buckley is the vortex at the centre whom you simply can't take your eyes off.

★★★★★ Hilary A White

 

Out of Innocence

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Were Danny Hiller's second feature exclusively a work of fiction it would seem far-fetched. But, although some licence has been used, this fictionalised version of the Kerry Babies case covers one of the most pivotal points in modern Irish history. Sometimes it is well worth looking back to see just how far we have come.

In 1984 a baby's body is washed up on a remote beach in Kerry. Gardai place the body in a cardboard box, perhaps this is not the first time such a thing has happened. In Mass a priest celebrates the recently passed Eighth Amendment. One night on a farm a young woman, Sarah Flynn (Fionnuala Flaherty) delivers a stillborn baby. It is the second child she has had with her married boyfriend. Her mother (Fiona Shaw) guesses but nothing is said.

When gardai learn the baby on the beach may have been stabbed to death, Detective Callaghan (Alun Armstrong) becomes convinced that Sarah, who has sought post-natal medical treatment, is the mother of the baby on the beach. The facts do not fit and the DPP finds not enough evidence to prosecute her. However, a subsequent tribunal of inquiry into Garda behaviour sees Sarah put on trial.

The film tells a story of a different Ireland, different attitudes to women, to sex, to religion, to authority, to secrets. Although it happened only 35 years ago, much of it seems hard to understand to modern sensibilities.

Don't let anyone tell you the world is a worse place than before, this proves that for Irish women especially it is not. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

 

Don't Go

Cert: 15A; Selected cinemas

Certain things just don't go together. An example would be setting a supernatural mystery in Connemara and placing two flawless Hollywood veneers (Stephen Dorff and Melissa George) against a backdrop of sheep wire and gaelscoileanna.

Superficiality aside, bizarre juxtapositions litter David Gleeson's film (co-written with Ronan Blaney), both in production (green screens, CGI crows, corny lighting) and storytelling.

Cliches abound; a tortured writer with designer stubble called Ben (Dorff) who's had one hit but no follow-up; a dead child he and wife Hazel (George) are moving on from; a new town with twitchy locals. The pair have reclaimed a family pile and intend to open a hotel, but Ben is consumed by nightmares. More grief arrives with Hazel's old pal Serena (Aoibhinn McGinnity) whose heavy mascara and black attire tell us she's obviously troubled.

Simon Delaney's poker-playing priest is a small mercy in this muddled misstep of a film that collapses into complete confusion in its final act. ★★ Hilary A White

 

Little

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14-year-old Marsai Martin - lifts the film
 

Cert: 12A; Now showing

For the first 20 minutes of Little I wondered if I was going to be able to sustain the will to live for the duration of the full film.

Tina Gordon directs the screenplay she co-wrote with Tracy Oliver, and Regina Hall bawls her way around every cliche of the successful woman, ie the ball-breaking meanie. Her comeuppance - 14-year-old Marsai Martin - lifts the film though it remains strangely disjointed.

Jordan Sanders (Hall) is a very successful wagon. She has an assistant she doesn't appreciate or deserve and employees who are terrified of her. Then on the verge of losing her biggest client, Jordan is magicked back into her 13-year-old self (Martin). What ensues is not as funny as it could be, there are scenes that make no sense whatsoever and it all descends into a mawkish morality tale.

But it is better than the first 20 minutes suggest. And there are nice clothes. ★★ Aine O'Connor

 

Wonder Park

Cert: PG; Now showing 

There is an interesting idea in Wonder Park about childhood grief and fear, the emotions that children face when a parent becomes ill.

However, it is a tough one to tackle well and perhaps this is why the film lets the idea slide into the background becoming instead a sweet but unmemorable animation.

A young girl called June (Brianna Denski) has for years, with her mother (Jennifer Garner) created an imaginary amusement park called Wonder Park.

When her mother becomes ill and has to go away, June loses faith in childish things and refuses to discuss the park.

She also develops serious anxiety about her father (Matthew Borderick) and when escaping a trip to math camp to go home to look after him, she stumbles upon the ruins of her Wonder Park.

Like Inside Out, it is about projection and transference of feeling into reality but sadly it is nowhere near as good as that film. The animation is pretty, the story fine, and younger kids will enjoy it.

★★ Aine O'Connor

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