AISHA – Review by April Neale

Smaller films can pack profoundly gargantuan messages about humanity and the pendulum of fate. Poor, in distress, and alone, Aisha, a young Nigerian woman seeking asylum in Ireland, is at the mercy of bureaucrats and paper pushers as she awaits her hearing to see if she qualifies for Irish residency and Visa status. The Stranger in a Strange Land plot is a well-worn road for many filmmakers, but in Aisha, Letitia Wright gives a subdued and powerful turn as the titular young woman who struggles to maintain her dignity against the threat of deportation. As with all tales of this nature, there are bad actors and good souls, as this Nigerian refugee is not only sticking out like a sore thumb thanks to her race and religion (she is Islamic) but her days spent held in a Dublin detention center are made bearable by the kindness of an Irish security guard, played with great restraint and presence by Josh O’Connor.

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THE JOB OF SONGS – Review by Lois Alter Mark

Director Lila Schmitz’s debut feature is a lovely tribute to a unique aspect of culture and its rich history. We hear from musicians, both through their haunting music and through candid interviews, about the importance of keeping traditional songs alive in an increasingly fast-paced world. “The job of songs can sometimes be to entertain,” explains one of the musicians. “But it’s this thing of giving people who don’t have songs permission to feel things that are really deeply ingrained in them, that they don’t really intellectually understand.”

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GOD’S CREATURES – Review by Nadine Whitney

God’s Creatures is akin to a Greek Tragedy relocated to a contemporary Irish fishing village. From the first frame of the film, we are steeped in foreboding which is added to by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans’ strident score that is reminiscent of a Greek chorus in its use of stark strings, percussion, and a chorus of women throat singing. The unnamed village is not a postcard version of the Irish coast, instead it is dark and forbidding. A tight-knit community that is bound together by the whims of the sea and the grind of trying to make some kind of a living doing back breaking work.

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ROISE AND FRANK – Review by Maitland McDonagh

Writer/director team Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy’s Roise and Frank is a feelgood movie from its cold, black nose to its ever-wagging tail. But it has just that touch of bracing awareness that life can be short and happiness is often dusted with a coating of the bittersweet reality for which Irish comedies are either famous or notorious, depending on how you like your laughs.

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THE QUIET GIRL – Review by Jennifer Green

The Quiet Girl, Ireland’s submission for this year’s International Oscar, is the kind of film you watch with a knot in your throat, knowing its gentle beauty and suggestive foreshadowing may give way to sadness, if not outright tragedy, compounded by the unalterable reality of its setting. This time and place – early 1980s rural Ireland – would seemingly have it no other way.

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DEADLY CUTS – Review by Carol Cling

How do you like to observe St. Patrick’s Day? Raising a pint of Guinness or a tipple of Tullamore D.E.W.? Reading W.B. Yeats’ revelatory poetry or James Joyce’s revolutionary prose? Perhaps you prefer a cinematic celebration of the Emerald Isle — the vintage charms of The Quiet Man, for example, or something along the lines of the current Oscar contender Belfast. If the latter titles are too polite to suit your mood, however, the boisterous shenanigans of Deadly Cuts offer a raucous alternative.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 11, 2022: HERE BEFORE

Is it really possible for those we’ve loved and lost to return to us? That’s the question that grieving mother Laura (Andrea Riseborough) finds herself obsessed with in Irish filmmaker Stacey Gregg’s moody and compelling drama/thriller Here Before. Still mourning the tragic loss of her daughter, Josie, years before, Laura finds herself drawn to young Megan (Niamh Dornan) when the girl’s family moves in next door. Could Megan be more than she seems? The film seems determined to show that love, loss, and other big feelings are part of the everyday experience, for better or worse.

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HERE BEFORE – Review by Susan Wloszcyna

A haunting atmosphere engulfed with a sense of grief is everything in Irish writer-director Stacey Gregg’s unsettling thriller Here Before. Set in a damp and chilly suburb of Belfast, the story begins when a new family moves next door to Laura (Andrea Riseborough), a distraught mother who lost her daughter Josie in a car accident several years before when her husband was behind the wheel. The new neighbors’ daughter, Megan, resembles Laura’s deceased daughter.

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ENDLESS SUNSHINE ON A CLOUDY DAY – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Actor and screenwriter John Connors, who makes his directorial debut chronicling the devastating battle that Anthony McCann, his wife Kim, and their children, Jade and Eion, waged over the next two years to beat back his death from cancer, shows a deep empathy for his subjects as he unspools their story. Anthony and Kim are given ample time in this documentary (Eion seems to have chosen to remain largely out of the picture), but it is Jade whose story takes center stage.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 19, 2021: ROSE PLAYS JULIE

In Rose Plays Julie the anxiety of a daughter’s discontent and her birth mother’s minefield of memories begin to run parallel. The film-makers layer in visuals of euthanasia, excavation, dissection, and horror to amplify a suspense that otherwise might’ve been melodrama. The result is an engrossing thriller made edgier by the performances of Ann Skelly and Orla Brady. From beginning to end, Rose Plays Julie is an effective examination of “what if” and sexual assault, one that leaves no doubt about the harm the latter causes, which is visceral and frightening and long lasting.

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