Every March, my Irish American blood forces my head full of thoughts of shamrocks and leprechauns, lamb stews and hearty stouts, and I can’t help but see the world through emerald green-colored glasses. This year, I’m excited to preview an honest to goodness Irish mini-film-festival that will screen at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film as part of the Music City Irish Festival.
The Watkins screenings kick off the festivities later this week with a lineup of movies that runs the gamut from romantic comedies, to period pieces, to dramas. But, what all these films have in common is their celebration of the humor, creativity, tenacity and pride in Irish culture. The culture that’s celebrated the world over by natives, their descendants in America and elsewhere, and even by people of every race and nationality who claim one day in March to wear the green, hoist a glass and shout a toast to the Emerald Isle.
Erin go Bragh!
HERE’S THE LINEUP AT WATKINS:
Leap Year (2010) – Anna (Amy Adams) is dating Jeremy (Adam Scott) – a successful if somewhat clueless-about-love heart surgeon. They’re a smart-looking couple and they share the dream of buying a condo in Boston’s best building, but Jeremy shows no signs of popping the question. When Jeremy gets called away to a cardiologist’s convention in Dublin, Adams zeros-in on an old Irish tradition where women can ask men to marry on Leap Day every four years. Off to nab Jeremy with her ask, Anna runs into a series of misadventures that find her on a road trip with a taxi driver named Declan (Mathew Goode). Will Anna’s dream be realized or will she find true love with the rude and scruffy Irishman she’s just met? Leap Year has nearly no surprises to offer, but strong directing and delightful performances make this a pitch-perfect date movie for the St. Patrick’s season. Thursday, March 2, at 7 p.m.
Brooklyn (2015) – This critically-acclaimed, Academy Award-nominated period drama was directed by John Crowley, written by Nick Hornby and stars Saoirse Ronan. Ellis Lacey (Ronan) is a young woman, living at home with her mother and sister in a small town in Ireland in the early 1950s. With no suitable suitors or jobs to take on, Ellis sails to America under the sponsorship of a kindly priest, and finds herself staying with a group of young women at a boardinghouse in Brooklyn. In New York, Ellis feels a deep separation from her mother and sister, and she’s vulnerable and homesick in the big city before she starts to fall for a gregarious Italian named Tony. However, fate intervenes and Ellis must return to Ireland where she must choose between her old life and her new one. The acting and the dialog in this movie are spare and understated, but pack emotional wallop to spare. And the production design and cinematography collude to create a mise-en-scène that reads more like a clearly recalled memory than an actual, realistic place and time. Friday, March 3, at 7 p.m.
Waking Ned Devine (1998) – When it’s announced that someone in a tiny Irish hamlet has won the National Lottery, gossip runs wild before Ned Devine is found holding the winning ticket. Devine is very lucky, but also very dead. Jackie O’Shea (Ian Bannen) and Michael O’Sullivan (David Kelly) discover the body, but they also hatch a scheme to fool the visiting lottery official – the whole town is in on the ruse and anxious to share in the prize money. Like Local Hero or The Full Monty, Ned Devine is one of those charming British Isles village comedies that’s all delightful setting and eccentric characters with a twist-tie for a plot, but love and laughs to spare. Saturday, March 4, at 3 p.m.
Jimmy’s Hall (2015) – Ken Loach makes films about working class characters in the British Isles struggling for their individual dignity against the oppression of the state and/or the church. That’s a big generalization, but a “Ken Loach film” is a thing, and Jimmy’s Hall is definitely one of them. After a 10-year stint in New York, Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) returns to the Irish town he left behind after circumstances forced his exile during the Irish Civil War. Once he’s back he plans to re-open a meeting hall, but he’s met with resistance from a local priest and from the shadows of his own past. This isn’t Loach’s best film, but it makes a good introduction for newbies to his oeuvre. Saturday, March 4, at 7 p.m.
Find a full festival calendar at www.musiccityirishfest.com.
Joe Nolan is a critic, columnist and performing singer/songwriter based in East Nashville. Find out more about his projects at www.joenolan.com.
Image: 'Brooklyn' (2015).