Plé:Scannánaíocht na Gaeilge

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Ón Vicipéid, an chiclipéid shaor.

Irish language cinema has been bubbling for some time, waiting to make its mark.

In 1935, the documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty made 'Oidhche Sheanchais,' an 11 minute piece of docu-fiction and a side project during the shooting of his celebrated docufeature 'Man of Aran'. The short film was the first to feature spoken Irish and centred around four islanders who gathered around the hearth to listen to some sean-nos singing and the telling of an old folk tale. The first feature length Irish language film was George Morrison's 1959 Gael Linn produced documentary 'Mise Eire' about the 1916 Easter Rising which featured a stirring musical score bythe Cork composer Sean O Riada. In 1978, Bob Quinn made the first narrative feature in the language 'Poitin' on 16mm film, a Connemara thriller with Cyril Cusack, Donal McCann and Niall Tobin.

In an echo of the riots sparked by John Millington Synge's 'Playboy of the Western World' and the backlash against Brian O'Nolan's novel 'An Beal Bocht,' Quinn's film was initially met with anger by some viewers when it aired on RTE on St Patrick's Day in 1979 who objected to its play on old west of Irish stereotypes.

Since the emergence in 1996 of the Irish language TV channel TG4, there has been a slow but steady commitment to homegrown TV drama and film.

Shows like the sitcom 'CU Burn,' the political satire 'The Running Mate,' the Galway Races dramedy 'Glor Tire' and the soap opera 'Ros na Run,' which memorably featured a cameo from Stephen Fry speaking Irish, have developed a host of actors, directors and crew filming in the language.

Short films like Jennifer Keegan's cult classic 'Caca Milis' with Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Bradley, which was on the Leaving Cert curriculum in Irish secondary schools, and Daniel O'Hara's 'Fluent Dysphasia' with Stephen Rea have shown ambition.

TG4 has also helped fund a growing stable of Irish language movies like Tom Collins' London immigrant drama 'Kings' with Colm Meaney, the documentary 'Rocky Mos Muc,' the Famine tale 'Arracht' and lately through its Cine 4 arm, the rural drama 'Foscadh,' the Northern Irish thriller 'Doinnean' and unquestionably the most acclaimed feature ever to be made in the language, Colm Bairead's 'An Cailín Ciúin' ('The Quiet Girl').

With Bairead's feature amassing almost £1 million at the UK and Irish box office - an unprecedented figure for a film in the language - as well as heaps of praise from international film critics, it feels like the time may have come for Irish movies in the indigenous tongue. © Break Out Pictures & Cine 4

Coming on the back of Bairead's film is a UK and Irish release for Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy's quirky comedy 'Róise and Frank'.

Joining the ranks of dog movies like 'Lassie Come Home,' 'Turner and Hooch,' 'K9,' 'Red Dog,' 'Marley and Me' and recently 'Dog', it is a family film - the kind of feature you would imagine will wind up sitting comfortably on TG4's Christmas Day and St Patrick's Day schedules.

Like all dog tales, it is light fare - high on emotion but not on complexity.

Bríd Ní Neachtain plays Róise, a widow in Co Waterford who is still in depths of grief and despair following the passing of her husband, Frank two years previously.

A shell of her former self, she goes through the motions of life with little enthusiasm - getting up in the morning, making breakfast, going to the shops, watching TV.

Her son, Cillian O Gairbhai's Alan is a GP who lives nearby but he is also going through the motions.

Worn down by his job, he spends a lot of time fretting about his mother and only sparks into life when he is around his baby daughter

Róise's neighbour, Lorcan Cranitch's Donncha is lonely too following the break-up of his marriage and is keen to forge a relationship with her - even going to see Alan in his practice to get his blessing.

His plans, however, are thwarted by the arrival of a dog who starts following Róise around - initially much to the widow's annoyance. © Break Out Pictures & Cine 4

Róise starts to warm to the dog when she notices his uncanny knowledge of places she used to go with her late husband - he even jumps up onto his favourite chair which has remained unoccupied in the living room.

The dog also shares Frank's love of the Irish sport of hurling and before long, Róise is convinced her canine companion, who isn't microchipped, is her husband reincarnated.

Local villagers are amused by Róise's much brighter demeanor and her devotion to the dog - she even names him Frank after her late husband.

Róise starts wearing make up again, drives the dog around untethered in the front seat of her car and plays him her late husband's favourite Country n'Irish song.

She even buys him good steak and cooks him full Irish breakfasts.

Alan is, however, worried that his mum might be losing her marbles - especially when he finds the dog lying beside her on her bed.

Donncha is nervous too around dogs and is not a big fan of Frank but a local hurling mad schoolboy, Ruadhan de Faoite's Maidhchi is convinced Róise's canine companion is actually helping him become a better player as he guides the school team to its first cup final.

Is Frank really Róise's husband in a canine form?

Or is it all a figment of her imagination? © Break Out Pictures & Cine 4

'Róise and Frank' isn't a taxing film.

It's a modest tale about a woman emerging from grief, told with a gentle humour.

It is decently, almost innocently told and the performances from Ni Neachtain, O Gairbhai, Cranitch, de Faoite, Aonghus Og McAnally as a local Guard and Sean T O Meallaigh as a dog pound warden have an easy charm.

The film is at its most lively as Moriarty and Murphy and their cinematographer Peter Robertson capture the action taking place on the hurling pitch.

They do a fine job too capturing the rugged beauty of the Waterford countryside and coast.

But the film never soars. It seems content to just amble along at the pace and tone of a quirky sitcom.

And that's okay because it would take the hardest of hearts to dislike 'Róise and Frank' which won the Best Ensemble Award at the Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards. © Break Out Pictures & Cine 4

It is no better or worse than most dog movies and certainly doesn't across like the kind of cynical money grabber that the execrable Simon Cowell produced 'Pudsey the Dog: the Movie' was.

The star of the show, though, is Barley, who plays the canine Frank.

In 90 minutes, he shows more acting range onscreen than Vin Diesel has managed in his entire career.

While it is several furlongs behind the ambition and emotional power of 'An Cailín Ciúin,' Moriarty and Murphy's film shows its heart is in the right place.

It is a quirky addition to the recent crop of Irish language movies and long may that stable continue to grow.

But here's hoping for more ambitious films and not just easygoing crowd pleasers, with Moriarty and Murphy and other directors being encouraged to keep stretching in their mother tongue.

('Róise and Frank' opens at the Queen's Film Theatre in Belfast and other UK and Irish cinemas on September 16, 2022) Eomurchadha (plé) 16:25, 17 Eanáir 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]