Review: Lakelands

Written and directed by Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney, tells the story of Cian, a footballer who gets attacked on a night out. He will struggle to come to terms with his career-ending injury. Starring: Éanna Hardwicke, Danielle Galligan, Lorcan Cranitch, Gary Lydon, Dafhyd Flynn, Dara Devaney and Lesley Conroy.

Having films like Lakelands where modern, young men are faced with a minefield of emotion and have to learn to be open, thoughtful and mindful is extremely important. It’s only very recently that conversations about mental health, or even health in general, are starting to break out of the box of toxic masculinity and old-fashioned attitudes. Meaning that it’s vital to keep pushing that message of seeking help, taking steps to benefit your health and not taking unnecessary risks. It’s not even that common simply to have a film that takes head injuries seriously, so even purely that is a step in the right direction.

Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney recognise the importance to their story not only in the writing but also in the direction which succinctly matches that thoughtful feel. There’s a patience to it but also a youthfulness, capturing both Cian (Éanna Hardwicke) as he is originally and how his character evolves. The cinematography adds a lot of natural charm, there’s a simplicity to it that does so well to match the grounded atmosphere of the film. It’s well edited and the story progresses in a truly organic way, it’s slow but purposeful and engaging.

Éanna Hardwicke is a big part of how natural the film feels, his performance has a superb range. He brings the typical attributes of being stubborn, reckless and competitive but beneath that there’s a kindness and generosity. They’re qualities which evolve in their balance throughout the film and Hardwicke captures that beautifully. He portrays Cian’s journey so wonderfully that when the credits finally roll, it’s surprisingly satisfying and bittersweet.

His charm is only amplified when Danielle Galligan enters the picture as Grace. The encouragement that she gives to Cian to open up and take a more responsible attitude is sweet and genuine but their connection is even better. The chemistry between them is fantastic, partly because it isn’t all about romance, it’s friendship and support that take the lead. Seeing that sidestep of their feelings for one another in favour of respect and caring is genuinely lovely and refreshing.

Lakelands is an engaging, moving and sincere exploration of struggle and loss, it may not be your typical loss but having to change your entire outlook and future is its own type of grief. Éanna Hardwicke leads the film with a stellar performance that’s superbly vulnerable and charming, he’s undoubtedly one to watch. His performance then gets even better when he’s paired with the wonderful Danielle Galligan who you can also currently see starring in Netflix’s Shadow and Bone. Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney create a strong, compelling story and add an understated but impactful visual, producing an authentic and thoughtful film.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Coming to UK cinemas on 5 May

Reviewed as part of Glasgow Film Festival 2023

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