Review: An Irish Goodbye

Written and directed by Tom Berkeley and Ross White, in rural Northern Ireland, a pair of estranged brothers reunite following their mother’s untimely death. Starring: James Martin, Seamus O’Hara, Paddy Jenkins and Michelle Fairley.

One of the key factors in creating any film is balance, unless you’re going for something entirely one noted, you have to blend your elements together. In the case of An Irish Goodbye, Tom Berkeley and Ross White do a fantastic job of capturing both comedy and a deeply emotional story. It’s an element which is also hugely complimented by Stephen Dunne’s editing throughout, because the timing and movement that he adds is exceptional. Through that they create the heart to this film, exploring the beauty in imperfection, we don’t always know exactly what to do or say and especially in times of grief. Those times allow a bigger vulnerability, openness and honesty to emerge, and create bigger, deeper connections along the way. Loss is an experience which pushes you to both look inwards and to the past, and Berkeley and White bottle that in such a sweet, affecting and wholesome manner.

There’s a lot of charm at work with An Irish Goodbye and while the writing has a big hand in it, you have to give a huge amount of credit to the brilliant performances from James Martin and Seamus O’Hara. They bring us a fraught relationship, brothers being pulled in two different directions and struggling to see things from each other’s perspective. When they’re then thrown together for a few days to figure things out, their eyes begin to open. What the audience then gets the pleasure of watching, is them getting to know each other all over again and letting go. Martin brings us a stubborn yet playful presence, playing upon Lorcan’s naivety to create something thoughtful and loving. While O’Hara gives us the more typically dutiful son in Turlough, being brought down by stress and in much need of seeing things through his brother’s eyes for a change, to bring some levity and positivity. There’s a wonderfully blunt honesty and candid nature between them, which really hits those comedic notes terrifically. Paddy Jenkins then tops that off with a beautifully awkward note of constantly saying the wrong thing which is a lot of fun to watch.

You’ve got these superb performances on top of a moving, funny script but the film is then elevated further by Tom Berkeley and Ross White’s direction and Narayan Van Maele’s cinematography. The framing is absolutely stunning, the aesthetic has a rich colour and it really serves to bring through the depth to the emotions at play. It also makes gorgeous use of natural lighting throughout, each frame holds a charming sincerity, which again helps to level the scales between comedy and drama. The locations are perfectly chosen and the sets have a surprising amount to add, particularly the dining room scenes which have a great texture to them, the setting holds an interesting gravitas which enhances the charged moments. As well as some very satisfying landscape shots to make the most of the picturesque location at dusk.

An Irish Goodbye is charming, funny, moving and stunningly shot. It translates a story of loss into humour and brotherly love. James Martin and Seamus O’Hara bring to life those brothers with such a lively, captivating presence and watching them reconnect is genuinely heart-warming. Tom Berkeley and Ross White bring such an impressive level to both the writing and direction that it’s hard to believe it’s only their sophomore short, it’s aesthetically wonderful and an absolute pleasure to watch unfold.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯✯ | 10/10

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