a kelin sisin (12a, 94min)
In old Ireland, when people had large families and thought little about it, it was so easy for quiet kids to fall through the cracks. One such is Kat (Katherine Clinch), a sad-eyed, observant nine-year-old girl who has become used to forgetting. Everything is invisible at home, Kat is picked up in school, and all the worry is happening to her: she wets her bed.
With four children under her feet, and one more on the way, her mother (Kate Nick Choonaugh) doesn’t seem able to acknowledge or address her daughter’s troubles, and as the date of birth draws near, she becomes a cousin. She sends Kat to live with her brother, Eiblin (Carrie Crowley), who lives with her husband, Cen (Andrew Bennett), on a remote farm.
It’s 1981, and Kat’s father (Michael Patrick) shows his daughter, while speeding, ignoring her, more interested in where her next drink might come from. He also forgets to take his case off the boot, and leaves Kat alone and evicted among strangers. It is a matter of happiness for them that they become strangers saints.
It is the basis for Colm Bairéad’s Cailín Ciúin, a sad, haunting, beautiful little feature, featuring the best Irish language film I’ve seen, probably the best Irish film I’ve ever seen, and on Claire Keegan’s short story, Foster. is based.
That story, and the film, harken back to a lost but relatively recent Ireland in which indifference and accidental cruelty to children was common.
Conservatives might argue that these days, children are spoiled and have a lot to say for themselves: rather than a world in which they are expected to obey their ‘superiors’ at all times and remain silent. She goes.
It’s a discipline that Kat is very adept at, but on Sean and Eblin’s farm, she quickly realizes that obedience and silence are no longer expected of her. Eiblin has soft hands: a calm and intelligent woman, she lovingly combs Kat’s hair, and takes her hot shower. Food is served hot and on time, and when Kat speaks, she is listened to. In these highly changed conditions, the baby begins to blossom.
Sean, however, is a tough nut to crack. Clearly a kind and gentle man, he seems reluctant to let the child come close to him, and pounces on him when he tries to help her around the farm. But she will be conquered, and there is a reason for her reluctance, and to Ablin’s eagerness, that Kat will eventually work out.
One plays as Cailín Ciúin Gaeilge, but the language is so naturally woven into the story that after a while you start to forget it’s not in English.
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Telling a slow, calm story requires real skill, and Colm Bairéad delivers this soulful drama beautifully.
At its center, a country kitchen, timeless in its design, the kind of place your grandparents used to caress you. It is a safe place, a barrier against general cruelty and cruelty, as never known before, and now afraid she will be defeated.
Emma Looney’s set design is perfect, and Kate McCullough’s soft and spotless cinematography frames this ultimately heartbreaking drama well.
The performance of Katherine Clinch (who is now 12) is breathtaking, her stillness and repressed sadness deeply infused: Saying little, Clinch manages to convey her character’s conflicting feelings and fears.
As Aiblin, Carrie Crowley has never been better, playing a beloved and wounded woman who is the product of a time and place when expression of deep feelings was universally avoided.
Andrew Bennett’s scene also struggles to suppress the longings, regrets, that will eventually get the better of him: together, he and Crowley make up a moving and iconic double act.
They will take care of Kat, pity her, but only as long as they are allowed to. At one point, while they are out and about with the girl, a neighbor innocently asks “Can’t she be hired?” It was once a terrible place to be a kid.
Rating: Five Star
Father Stew (15 certs, 124 min)
Mark Wahlberg excels at playing plucky blue-collar types: He also has great comic timing. In Father Stew, which is based on a true story, he combines the two talents in a fine performance to flavor Father Stew’s repeated occasional laps.
Raised in Montana by a weary mother (Jackie Weaver) and a hard-drinking father (Mel Gibson), Stuart Long (Wahlberg) is haunted by the death of his younger brother, and becomes angry and discontented. Forced by an injury to give up his amateur boxing career, he decided to move to Hollywood to become an actor.
Instead, he gets a job at a supermarket, and falls in love with a Mexican girl named Carmen (Teresa Ruiz). Since she is purely Catholic, Stu is baptized to marry her, but not before he is seriously injured in a motorbike accident. Lying on the road, he has a vision of the Blessed Virgin, who asks him to clean up his act. Later, he has an epiphany, and decides to become a priest.
Father Stu is delectable, if scholarly, and Mark Wahlberg is excellent as the salty padre, as is a soulful Mel Gibson as his father.
Rating: Three Stars
Vortex (16, 142 min)
At the beginning of Gaspar Noé’s bleak, compelling play Vortex, a young and hotly handsome Francois Hardy sings a song about death. “You praised me yesterday,” she says, “but tomorrow I’ll be dust.” The human condition is highlighted by a pop song, and the slow deterioration of an elderly couple, identified only as father (Dario Argento) and mother (François LeBron). Noe, famous for his taboo movies, here beheads the ultimate elephant in the corner – mortality.
Father and mother seem old soixante-hitted, hippie activists old and sour. They love each other, but age and illness have torn them apart, as Noe makes it clear by shooting them in split-screen.
He has a heart condition, a form of dementia, a sick joke to a former psychiatrist. The father intends to finish a book about cinema and dreams, but worries that his wife may run out of the house while he is not looking, will be lost and never be found.
This honest, fearless drama gets to the heart of what it’s like to be human, and it’s the kind of movie that would never be made in America.
Rating: Five Star