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'It's a cinematic masterpiece': Our readers recommend their favourite Irish films

The Dublin International Film Festival takes place at the end of this month.

THE VIRGIN MEDIA Dublin International Film Festival (DIFF) opens on 26 February, and promises a whole host of amazing films from Ireland and across the world to enjoy.

We recently gave away two season tickets to two lucky readers. To enter the competition, we asked people to recommend to us their favourite Irish films.

We were so blown away with the answers that we’ve put the best ones below for you to enjoy. No need to wonder what film to watch next…

Eoin: The Informer

Source: nika chikviladze/YouTube

“John Ford’s classic The Informer (1935), based on Liam O’Flaherty’s novel of the same name, is a superb study of personal conflict and despair set during the Irish War of Independence. Victor McLaglen deservedly won an Oscar for his portrayal of Gypo Nolan, who pays a high price for his betrayal of a fellow IRA-man. Ford’s tight direction creates a dark and atmospheric take of betrayal, guilt and retribution. It is a cinematic masterpiece, especially relevant to our current decade of Commemorations.”

Eileen: Seaview

Source: Volta VOD/YouTube

“My favourite Irish film is Seaview from Still Films – a 2007 documentary about asylum seekers living in Mosney. The contrast of the former holiday camp and its current residents’ lives is jarring but the filmmakers allow the residents and workers to tell their own stories. It is a very sensitively made and moving film and still very relevant in 2020 Ireland.”

Grace: The Commitments

Source: WorleyClarence/YouTube

“My favourite Irish film without a doubt is The Commitments (1991). Must have seen it 20+ times. I love the story, the Dublin humour, and the characters, from Joey ‘the lips’ Fagan to Micka ‘don’t fuck with me’ Wallis. Even their names make me laugh. But what’s most enjoyable is the music. What a great soundtrack. Think I’ll go listen to it now.”

Kate: The Magdalene Sisters

Source: isthemoviegood/YouTube

“I recommend The Magdalene Sisters (2002). Heart-breaking movie featuring stories of the unfortunate girls and women who were incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries, many for the rest of their lives. These women were taken from their families because of pregnancy outside marriage (often as a case of rape) or just having a ‘glad eye’ for the lads. They were made to work long hours for no pay, washing and ironing in the laundries which the nuns operated as a profitable business. 

“An important movie spotlighting the lives of these prisoners during a dark time in Ireland’s history.”

Lar: Kisses

Source: YouTube Movies/YouTube

“Kisses (2008) – fantastics highs and lows – it’s been 10 years since I saw it but it’s completely changed my outlook on homelessness. Probably more relevant now than at the time too which you can’t say about most films.”

Michael: Cardboard Gangsters

Source: WildCard Distribution/YouTube

“Directed by Mark O’Connor, Cardboard Gangsters is an Irish gangland film starring John Connors (Love/Hate) and it gives us a fascinating, realistic and at times terrifying insight into crime, drugs and poverty in Dublin. Shot on location in Darndale, the story follows Jay Connolly (Connors) and his friends as they attempt to seize money, power and women through building up their own drug dealing empire. It’s not long before events spiral out of control as they encroach on the territory of established head of the local drug trade Derra Murphy (Jimmy Smallhorne).

“Cardboard Gangsters” is a top class Irish crime drama. The film is extremely well directed, the writing is sharp and both the cinematography and soundtrack are also memorable. Some will no doubt be appalled at the apparent glamorisation of bloody violence, sex, drug dealing and gang culture but this film isn’t meant for you if you’re of a sensitive nature. This vivid portrayal of Dublin crime is a most welcome contribution to Irish cinema and I suspect it will appeal to wide audience at home and abroad, perhaps even to be remembered as one of the best Irish films to date.”

Sarah: My Left Foot

Source: Athens International Film Festival/YouTube

“One of my earliest memories of a trip to the cinema was when My Left Foot was released in 1989. I was nine years old and I always loved going to the cinema. My family and I were to meet my parents’ friends at Roches Stores on Henry Street but they were running late. To avoid us all being late we wrote a little note and stuck it to the glass door entrance of Roches. Text messages and emails weren’t a thing back then so we wrote that we would go ahead and get the tickets and meet them at the cinema instead, The Savoy on O’Connell St. There was a bit of drama on whether they would make it or not but they did. My parents loved Irish cinema and taught us the importance of Irish film and culture. Even though I might have been a little young for My Left Foot, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and remember that trip vividly. The story follows Christy Brown through his struggle with cerebral palsy and it taught me that with perseverance and courage, anyone can be or do anything they want in life. That obstacles in life are there to make us stronger. A truly inspirational movie.”

Emer: The Young Offenders

Source: WildCard Distribution/YouTube

“The Young Offenders (2016): The movie works because the characters are endearing and likeable, albeit crazy and stupid. Their brotherly relationship is credible – two idiotic young fellows who dress the same, act the same, and even have the same ugly moustaches! All the while, they will stick by each other as they clumsily pursue their dreams. The dialogue might not be particularly sharp nor original but their back and forth banter is very funny and the ridiculous situations the teens find themselves in are daftly amusing. I liked that the movie was set in Cork as it makes a refreshing change from Dublin. The film was shot in some of the most iconic locations around Cork city and along the Wild Atlantic Way and it’s magnificent to look at.”

Conor: Irish Destiny

Source: Vintage Everyday/YouTube

“Irish Destiny was one of the first independently produced and financed Irish films, with possibly even the title of being the only remaining film with such a claim, despite years of being lost from archives. Irish Destiny was written and produced by chemist and film enthusiast Isaac Eppel, who lived through the Easter Rising, War of Independence, and Civil War. It tells the story of a young Irish man, returning from Dublin, to protect his family and fiancée from the Black and Tans. What’s amazing about this film is that it edits in real film reel footage of the destruction of Cork and other battles to lend a sense of realism and atmosphere, a technique close to a century ahead of its time as it wouldn’t be seen again until films like Forrest Gump or the found footage genre.

“Eppel’s lived experience lends a sense of rawness and emotion to the film and its characters; imagine if Schindler’s List was made in the 50′s by a Holocaust survivor, it would have that sense of clarity and recollection. With the decade of centenaries continuing into the early half of the 2020s, I can think of no better way to commemorate than this independent film that was created, produced, and performed by Irish talent years before the official formation of the state of Ireland, let alone the concept of backing Irish productions.”

Kate: Brooklyn

Source: SearchlightPictures/YouTube

“Brooklyn (2016). I love this film because it just never get old and it has a lot of meaning to it. It’s easy to relate to because as a young Irish person i may, like Eilis, have to leave Ireland to seek further opportunities. This I find intriguing as we have many problems in Ireland such as the housing crisis and emigration is becoming more and more prominent.”

Maedbh: Losing Alaska

Source: Irish Film Institute/YouTube

“There are a couple of reasons why Losing Alaska (2018) is my favourite Irish film; the cinematography which portrays the wild, expansive scenery is beautiful, but it also has the powerful ability to dually depict a community in dire crisis. In ways, the landscape of many parts of rural Ireland is similar in its wilderness, but fortunately, catastrophic implications of climate change of this magnitude have not reached our shores.”

Dylan: A Date For Mad Mary

Source: Element Pictures Distribution/YouTube

“My favourite Irish film of recent years is A Date For Mad Mary. Set in Drogheda, it’s both corrosively funny and enchantingly tender as our protagonist Mary tries to pick her life together after her release from prison with the looming nuptials of her best friend looming. The best moments of the film deal with our Irish ways of (lack of) communicating, the expectations of society upon us and the brilliant language and wit we possess. The best line said by Mary’s mam about her prospects at dating: ‘Even a fucking sniper wouldn’t take you out!’”

Rob: Michael Inside

Source: WildCard Distribution/YouTube

“Michael Inside (2018) demonstrates the shortcomings of the Irish justice system and prison service. The story is told from the perspective of a young man trying to live an honest life after being born into a family crippled by crime and drugs. The film manages to create a sense of empathy for people who have fallen onto the wrong side of the law, where hope can seem constantly just out of reach. It’s a brutal and heartbreaking experience to watch and I still reflect on it regularly. Personally it has made me try to be more considerate to people who have fallen into a life of crime due to disadvantages beyond their control.”

Claire: I Went Down

Source: Rigachrud/YouTube

“My favourite Irish film is I Went Down (1997). It’s a true 90s classic Irish film, and one which introduced many people to the genius that is Brendan Gleeson. It is such a quotable film, filled with rich dialogue. It is literally a laugh a minute and essential viewing for anyone into Irish films.”

Eimear: Into The West

Source: Irish Film/YouTube

“My all time favourite movie is Into the West! Every Irish person has to watch this at least 50 times in their lifetime. A classic mix of childhood, innocence, loyalty and Irish folklore and tradition. When I went to college in UCD, Rory Conroy who plays the character Tito was in my class… and I couldn’t bring myself to speak to him for the whole three years I was there – starstruck.”

Pamela: Song of Granite

Source: Patrick O'Neill/YouTube

“This theme of grounding, of connection and disconnection, of the circular rhythm of song and of life, runs throughout the film. Indeed the shape shifting of time, place and character is the essence of the film: the sense of birth and death, and the continuum cycle being its core. We hear [the singer Joe Heaney] musing about the stories of old, and see him as an old man watching his young self retrieving a nest that as a young boy he made.

“The imagery, song, sound, photography in this 2017 film are sublime. The story is loosely based on a famous singer Joe Heaney, renowned as a wanderer, who often left his family for years at a time, so as to follow wherever the song brought him. Although made in Irish, with subtitles, this film appeals to our senses – which act as our touchstone to the then, the here and now, and to magical mystical times.

John: Garage

Source: unsungcinema/YouTube

“My favourite Irish film is Garage (2007) directed by Lenny Abrahamson, while not an easy watch, the story is heartbreaking but believable with an incredible dramatic performance by Pat Short in which he sympathetically portrays a character which would be familiar to anyone who has lived in rural Ireland.”

Helen: Adam & Paul

Source: Emmet O'Neill/YouTube

“I loved the film Adam & Paul directed by Lenny Abrahamson. It first came out in 2004 and I still remember watching it for the first time and being enthralled in the entire story. It was low budget but loved how Dublin was shown throughout highlighting a gritty honest side of how these two characters navigate our capital city. The bond between the two guys really pulled me in along with their additional friendships and family that feature.

“The storytelling showed me addiction through their eyes and led me to think about the personalities of some of those living through our social challenges back then and still to this day in Ireland.

“I think others should watch it to really get an insight into the lives of those that struggle in our society and to experience the heart-breaking brutal honesty of this story .”

Grace: The Lobster 

Source: Movieclips Trailers/YouTube

“A dystopian 2016 black comedy premised on a single person having 45 days to find a partner or be turned into an animal, this is undoubtedly an unusual offering. But through this lens, the film manages to deftly emphasise the pressure placed on single people in society to “ascend” to relationships or face alienation. As well as that, Yorgos Lanthimos’ surreal and utterly deadpan aesthetic works wonders to underline both the humour and isolation of the characters, all of whom are anchored in fine performances. A must-see and familiar sights for locals abound!”

Alan: Frank

Source: Movieclips Trailers/YouTube

“My favourite Irish film is Frank (2014). A truly unique flick, Frank manages to be completely goofy and achingly hip. Ostensibly a road movie about the formation and demise of a band, Frank makes nods towards the creepy comedy of 90’s oddity Frank Sidebottom, but mainly through Michael Fassbender’s compulsion to continually wear a giant head. Sad, heartwarming, hilarious and remarkably true to life, Frank deals with the connection between creativity and mental illness. It’s like Spinal Tap on anti-depressants: a beautiful, fleeting image of artistic genius and the pain involved in trying to capture it.”

Fintan: Once

Source: Movieclips Classic Trailers/YouTube

“I’d like to nominate ‘Once’ as my favourite Irish film. The characters are perfect and Dublin looks great in it and most importantly the soundtrack is a masterpiece. Great movie that has stood the test of time and can be watched over and over again and never gets dull.”

Katherine: The Snapper

Source: marcioalsa/YouTube

“The Snapper (1993) is a brilliant movie and probably the only movie I’ve ever seen that I can confidently say is better than the book (and the play!). It’s funny, emotional and clever – something to be enjoyed by everyone.”

Ger: Sing Street

Source: Movieclips Trailers/YouTube

“The movie I would recommend is Sing Street, a love letter to 80′s music and teen rebellion, played against a familiar Irish backdrop of religious repression and emigration. The comparisons with the Commitments are obvious (a lovable bunch of misfits coming together to create a band which is greater than the sum of its parts) but the fact that Sing Street can stand shoulder to shoulder with Roddy Doyle’s masterpiece is testament to the cast and the creatives, especially writer/director John Carney.”

Bláithín: Hole in the Ground

Source: Movie Trailers Source/YouTube

“There are so many Irish films that I could recommend to readers – they are mostly all the classics, like The Snapper or The Guard or The Commitments etc. However, I saw an Irish horror film last year that really stuck with me called The Hole in the Ground. Definitely lesser known, but worth a view in my opinion. It’s not often an Irish horror film enjoys much success.

“The film centres on the character Sarah, who has recently escaped from an abusive relationship and has moved to the countryside with her son. Soon after relocating, he goes missing for a few hours in the woods but however when he returns he is not quite the same as he was before. Quite a cliche in that respect. However I really enjoyed the film for several reasons.

“The first being the ambiguity of it. You spend half the film wondering if Sarah herself is going mad and imagining everything that is going on with her son. You also spend half the film trying to figure out what part of Ireland is is supposed to be set in, I still haven’t figured that out.”

Kelly: Rosie

Source: Movie Coverage/YouTube

“My favourite Irish film is Rosie (2018). This film resonated with me deeply. As a young person in Ireland trying to survive in a housing crisis, this movie really hit home. This film should be required viewing for landlords and politicians. So many of us are just one or two paychecks away from homelessness, and this movie depicts how it can happen easily with the current situation in Dublin.”

Jen: Disco Pigs

Source: Irish Film/YouTube

“Disco Pigs is a menacingly odd film from the 90s about Pig and Runt, two young Irish teenagers who grew up together and have entwined their lives together. Cillian Murphy and Elaine Cassidy are excellent at portraying unlikable but fascinating characters. One of the few female directed Irish movies from that time, it was a labour of love from those involved to get it translated from a play to a film.”

Conor: Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom

Source: filmbase/YouTube

‘Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom’ is a wonderful Irish film which explores different cultures and cultural misunderstandings. It shows how a bilingual film can work. This film depicts a modern Ireland adjusting to immigration. It also shows how we present ourselves to other cultures and how that representation can be misunderstood. Yu Ming’s adventures are improbable but seem plausible. This results in a quirky feelgood film. In true Irish fashion a little consideration allows Yu Ming to settle in.”

The Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival runs from 26 February – 8 March 2020. To find out more, visit the website.

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