It’s been a pretty good year for Irish cinema, not only was The Banshees of Inisherin a huge success, despite not winning one of its eight Oscar nominations, but Irish actor Paul Mescal got a nomination to for his role in the overrated Aftersun.
He returns to his home land to star in this independent film alongside the always watchable Emily Watson.
Working in a local fish factory processing seafood on the coast of Ireland is Aileen (Watson). It’s a small, tight knit community, where everyone knows everyone else’s business.
She’s in the local pub one night, with what seems like the rest of the village, when she’s shocked to see a familiar face – her son Brian (Mescal) – who has been away for some time in Australia.
She is of course, delighted to see him back, and he seems keen on staying too, making a go of oyster fishing.
All is good until her son gets accused of something, that doesn’t put him in a good light. Aileen instinctively sides with him, but how far can her blind devotion to her son betray her own morals?
Although set in a similarly small Irish community, this film is polar opposites in feel to The Banshees of Inisherin.
Aileen has a position of some power at work, managing the mainly female workforce below her. It doesn’t take her long however before she dabbles in some criminal activity of her own just to give her son a helping hand. This act in itself sets the stage for what’s to come, and although not complicit in her son’s actions, her silence reveals so much about her stance on the whole scenario.
Saela Davis – making her directorial debut – and Anna Rose Holmer helming her second feature, have delivered a strong, atmospheric film early in both their careers. It’s a measured film, borderline sluggish, that runs at the kind of pace you can imagine a village of this sort doing in real time.
In doing so however, it gives it an authentic feel, with emotions simmering just below the surface.
Watson is in terrific form, especially for someone who hasn’t been in a film since 2018’s The Happy Prince; of course she nails the accent, but she also perfectly presents a mother in conflict with her own morals.
Mescal is terrific too, embracing a character with more edge than his previous turns put together.
Some may well have an issue with the film’s ending however, which although undeniably powerful, the action’s of one character in particular don’t ring true.
Still, it’s a film that elegantly captures the mood of a village divided by opinion, as well as the conflict of emotions within a mother over the actions of her son.