Culture Representation: Taking place in Ireland, the horror film “The Cellar” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A married couple and their two children move into a house that has a history of being haunted and where previous residents have mysteriously disappeared.
Culture Audience: “The Cellar” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching formulaic horror movies that don’t do anything truly unique.
“The Cellar” succeeds in creating a spooky atmosphere, but it fails to rise above countless other haunted house stories, because of the movie’s weak screenplay, mediocre acting and dull pacing. “The Cellar” is too generic to be a memorable horror film. There are so many overused concepts in “The Cellar” that are in better haunted house movies, you can really do a checklist of all the ideas that are recycled in “The Cellar.”
Written and directed by Brendan Muldowney, “The Cellar” is based on his short film “The Ten Steps.” It’s yet another story about a family moving into a house with very dark secrets that the family won’t discover until it’s too late. And the people living in the house stay much longer than most people would in real life, just so the terror in the movie can be stretched out in repetitive scenes. “The Cellar” had its world premiere on the same date at the 2022 editions of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival and FrightFest Glasgow.
The family at the center of “The Cellar” are spouses Keira Woods (played by Elisha Cuthbert) and Brian Woods (played by Eoin Macken) and their children Ellie Woods (played by Abby Fitz) and Steven Woods (played by Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady). Ellie, who’s about 16 or 17 years old, is a stereotypical pouty teen. Her idea of rebelling is reading books on anarchy and getting an ankle tattoo of the anarchy symbol. Steven, who’s about 10 or 11 years old, is a stereotypical adorable tyke with the expected wide-eyed, open-mouthed, shocked reactions when the terror in the house begins to happen.
The Woods family’s new home is a drab and shabby mansion in an unnamed city in Ireland. (The movie was actually filmed on location in Roscommon, Ireland.) And as haunted houses typically are in horror movies, this house is in an isolated wooded area. The family members are all natives of Ireland, except for Keira, who’s either Canadian or American. (Cuthbert is Canadian in real life.)
“The Cellar” opens with the Woods family’s first day and night in the house. Brian and Steven are already there, while Keira and Ellie arrive separately by car. Ellie is already sulking because she didn’t want to move away from her friends. Upon seeing the house for the first time, Ellie says, “Holy shit. It’s so ugly!”
Why is this the first time that Ellie is seeing this house? It’s because Brian and Keira bought the house at an extremely low price at an auction. And they later find out the hard way that this bargain was too good to be true. And yes, “The Cellar” is another haunted house movie where the new residents didn’t bother to find out any background information about the house before buying it. The house still has furnishings and decorations left behind by the previous owner.
“The Cellar” doesn’t waste any time in showing that the house’s cellar is a place where sinister things happen. Within minutes of being in the house for the first time, Ellie goes in the cellar and declares to Keira, who’s near the door: “It’s filthy!” Keira replies, “I like to think of it as character.” And sure enough, Ellie mysteriously gets locked in the cellar, she freaks out, and then manages to escape. “I’m not staying in this house!” Ellie wails.
But of course, Ellie does stay in the house. After all, where else is she going to go in a hackneyed horror movie? Of course, all of the house’s rooms are predictably dark, as if everyone who’s lived there couldn’t be bothered to get a proper lamp or lighting than can illuminate more than certain corners of a room.
Ellie gets even more irritated with her parents when she finds out she has to look after Steven like a babysitter on their first night in the house. That’s because Keira and Brian, who are independent TV producers, have to work late because of an important pitch meeting related to their business. Keira tells Ellie that they need to sell this pitch in order for the family to financially survive.
Meanwhile, back in the mansion that doesn’t know the meaning of full-wattage light bulbs, Ellie is bitterly complaining to her boyfriend on the phone about how she much she dislikes her new home and how it’s unfair that she and Brian have to be in this creepy house alone on their first night there. The boyfriend listens to Ellie gripe about how much she misses him and their friends, and he suggests that he stay with her, even though Ellie’s parents wouldn’t let her do that. Ellie tells him why her parents are working late and says, “I hope they go bust, and we have to sell this house!”
Keira and Brian are independent TV producers who are trying to launch a reality show geared to teenagers called “Natural Selection,” where a young actress will pretend to be a popular vlogger. The pitch meeting takes place in a darkly lit conference room (everything in this movie is darkly lit or in tones of gray), where Keira and Brian are trying to sell this show to TV executives. There are vague mentions about viewer voting based on the physical appearances of the reality show’s cast members. It sounds like a horrible idea.
While Keira and Brian are in this meeting, the electricity suddenly goes out in their house. And what a coincidence: The circuit breaker is in the cellar. Guess who has to be the one to go back to the dreaded cellar to figure out what’s going on with the circuit breaker? Ellie calls Keira, who excuses herself from the meeting and tells Ellie that she has to be the one to fix the electricity problem by finding the circuit breaker.
Ellie is in a near-panic because she’s scared and reluctant to go back to the cellar. During this phone conversation, Keira instructs Ellie on how to find the circuit breaker in the cellar. And because this movie is filled with as many horror clichés as possible, Ellie is holding a lit candle in the cellar, instead of a more practical flashlight or a smartphone light.
Keira guides Ellie by telling her how many steps she needs to take to get to the circuit breaker. To help calm down Ellie, Keira tells Ellie to count out loud how many steps she’s taking for this walkthrough. During this counting out loud, the phone disconnects. Keira calls back and gets no answer. And when Keira and Brian get home, they find out to their shock that Ellie has disappeared.
A police investigator named Detective Brophy (played by Andrew Bennett) is called to the scene. Keira and Brian aren’t completely alarmed because they tell the detective that Ellie has run away before, and she’ll probably come back in a few days. A small search team looks though the woods to no avail. Keira puts up some missing-person flyers around the area. Meanwhile, “The Cellar” is so poorly written, it never shows Keira or Brian contacting any of Ellie’s friends to find out if these friends have seen her, which would be one of the first things that parents of a missing child would do.
The rest of “The Cellar” gets a bit monotonous, as Keira discovers strange symbols in the house and tries to find out what they all mean. Eventually, the search for Ellie becomes less of a priority in the movie than Keira playing detective to find out the history of the house and to get more information about the previous residents. Ellie contacts the auction manager, who says that the house was previously owned by an elderly woman whom he never met because her attorney was his main contact for the auction.
Because clues are easily given to Keira throughout the movie, she notices that the house has a portrait painting of a university mathematician named John Fetherston, the deceased patriarch of the family that previously lived there. She goes on a quest to find out this family’s background. The answers she gets are utterly predictable.
During this investigation that takes up a lot of Keira’s time, the movie never bothers again to address Keira and Brian’s job predicament that has made them financially desperate. As the days go by, and Ellie remains missing, these parents of a missing child don’t have realistic conversations about this family crisis of a child’s disappearance. It’s why “The Cellar” mishandles the separate terror of a family who has a missing child.
Instead, the movie puts more emphasis on the banal horror trope of a woman being perceived as mentally ill if she suspects what’s going on has to do with the supernatural. Brian questions Keira’s mental health when she divulges some of her theories about why the house might be haunted. Keira also begins to believe that Ellie didn’t run away but that Ellie was abducted—and not necessarily by a human being.
Meanwhile, more stereotypical haunted house hijinks ensue. Doors mysteriously open on their own. Objects get moved with no explanation. Steven gets locked in a room on one occasion, even though no one else appears to be there. The house’s electricity malfunctions again. It all just leads to a conclusion that would only be surprising to people who fell asleep during the movie’s boring middle section. The movie’s last scene is actually one of the few highlights of “The Cellar,” but it’s too little, too late.
One of the more commendable aspects of “The Cellar” is composer Stephen McKeon’s effectively haunting score. This music is sometimes used in over-the-top ways, but it does bring a consistent level of invoking the right moods for each scene. The production design for “The Cellar” is also noteworthy, although nothing in this movie is going to win any awards. The movie’s visual effects are adequate and not gruesome, for viewers who don’t like seeing bloody gore. Still, most of the movie’s “jump scares” just aren’t very scary, and they lack originality.
Unfortunately, the quality of “The Cellar” is lowered by Cuthbert’s stiff performance. She’s never really believable as a mother who’s frantically worried about her missing child. And in scenes where she should be conveying more emotion, Cuthbert just delivers her lines flatly. All the other cast members are in underwritten and underdeveloped roles, with nothing particularly special about their acting. “The Cellar” isn’t the worst horror movie ever, but it doesn’t have the spark, personality or creative imagination to make it stand out from other horror movies with the same ideas.
RLJE Films will release “The Cellar” in select U.S. cinemas on April 15, 2022, the same date that the movie premieres on Shudder.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Ireland and briefly in New York City, the romantic drama “Finding You” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one African American) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: An aspiring professional violinist and an action movie star, who are both American, meet on an airplane flying to Ireland, and she ends up becoming his love interest and temporary assistant while he films a movie in Ireland and has an on-again, off-again relationship with a co-star.
Culture Audience: “Finding You” will appeal mainly to people who like watching predictable and banal romantic dramas with absolutely nothing imaginatively creative about the story.
“Finding You” was written and directed by Brian Baugh, but the entire movie looks like it came from the mind of a naïve teenager who’s read too many hack romance novels. The movie is based on Jenny B. Jones’ faith-based young adult 2011 novel “There’ll You Find Me,” which was much more about coping with grief than being a sudsy and trite romance. There isn’t one single minute of “Finding You” that isn’t predictable and/or corny.
And that’s okay for a romantic movie, if the characters and storyline are charming enough and the movie has great dialogue, engaging acting and intriguing situations. However, in “Finding You,” the would-be couple basically look and talk like Ken and Barbie dolls, while they and the other characters in the story try and act like this “fairtayle romance” wasn’t the result of the guy cheating on his girlfriend with the story’s “heroine.”
This infidelity is glossed over in a very hypocritical way in this preachy and maudlin story, which tries to make the female protagonist look like a noble do-gooder, even though she’s an active and knowing participant in this infidelity. Meanwhile, she meddles in other people’s lives in the most condescending manner, as if she’s a paragon of virtue and morality. But because this story is based on the unrealistic fantasy that things always work out for pretty protagonists in the end, it all adds up to predictable junk.
“Finding You” begins with protagonist Finley Sinclair (played by Rose Reid), who lives in New York City, feeling defeated because she failed in her audition to get into an elite music conservatory. Finley plays classical violin and she’s supposed to be about 18 or 19 years old, but all the actors in “Finding You” who are supposed to be in that age group look like they’re way past their teen years. Finley is feeling sad over being rejected by the school, but she plans to audition again in three months for the school’s next semester.
To help Finley get over her unhappiness, Finley’s mother Jennifer Sinclair (played by Judith Hoag) suggests that Finley do what Finley’s brother Alex did years ago: Spend a semester studying in Ireland. And just like that, Finley is on a plane to Ireland, where she will be staying in a small town that’s not named in the film. The student application process sure works fast in this movie for Finley to get accepted into the foreign exchange student program so quickly.
On the plane, something occurs that happens only in a movie: A flight attendant chooses Finley, out of all the people on the plane, to get a free upgrade to the first-class section, just because there’s an empty seat, and the flight attendant thought that Finley might like to sit there. Of course, Finley says yes. And, of course, some viewers will roll their eyes at this “too good to be true” moment.
Finley dozes off in this first-class seat. And when she wakes up, she’s startled when she notices that her head had been accidentally resting on the shoulder of a good-looking stranger sitting next to her who wasn’t there when she first sat down. You know where this is going to go, of course. The man sitting next to her is about her age. And he happens to be a movie star. And this is the scene where there might as well be a big sign flashing, “Meet Cute Moment Alert!”
This movie star is an American named Beckett Rush (played by Jedidiah Goodacre), and he’s slightly amused by Finley being embarrassed at waking up with her head on his shoulder. She makes a sincere apology, but Beckett thinks that she’s one of his star-struck fans who deliberately planned to sit next to him on this plane. Beckett tells Finley that he doesn’t want to call attention to himself, so he tells her to wait until the plane lands before he can give her an autograph or photo.
Finley is mildly insulted by his arrogance, because she doesn’t really know or care about who Beckett is and why he’s famous. Beckett smirks and thinks that she’s lying. He can’t believe that she doesn’t know who he is. He mentions that he’s going to Ireland to film a movie, while Finley says she’s going to Ireland as a visiting student. The cliché banter continues. And then Beckett says one of the movie’s many cringeworthy lines: “You know, you look really beautiful when you admit that you’re wrong.”
On the plane, Finley just happens to be reading a celebrity gossip magazine and is flipping through it when she sees a photo spread of Beckett partying in a hotel suite, in various states of undress. It looks like the type of photos that someone at the party sold to the magazine. Finley looks at the photo spread with some disapproval. Beckett frowns and says, “You know, I didn’t like that article either.”
The plane lands in Ireland. Finley and Beckett go their separate ways—but not really, because you know they’re going to see each other again in the most sickeningly cute coincidence possible. Before she leaves for the host family home where she’ll be staying, Finley notices a gaggle of gushing young female fans surrounding Beckett at the airport, just in case it wasn’t immediately clear to everyone that Beckett is a teen idol.
The Irish family who’s hosting Finley is the same family who hosted her brother Alex when he studied in Ireland for a semester, about six or seven years earlier. The family has recently turned their home into a bed-and-breakfast lodging, and they’re desperate to get good reviews. The host family consists of married couple Sean Callaghan (played by Ciaran McMahon) and Nora Callaghan (played by Fiona Bell) and their teenage daughter Emma Callaghan (played by Saoirse-Monica Jackson), who is (to no one’s surprise) a huge fan of Beckett Rush.
How much does Emma adore Beckett? She has photos and posters of him plastered all over her bedroom walls. And only photos and posters of Beckett. She doesn’t just adore him. She’s obsessed. You can imagine how Emma (who’s about 15 or 16) reacts when she finds out who’s staying in her parents’ bed-and-breakfast home.
Finley finds out when Sean and Nora have a messy mishap in the kitchen while they’re making breakfast for their very special guest. Sean and Nora don’t want their guest to see them with their stained and disheveled clothes, and they don’t want to delay serving him by changing off into clean clothes. And so, they ask Finley to serve this “mystery guest” his breakfast.
The guest is Beckett, of course. And when Finley and Beckett see each other again, they have that “What are you doing here?” moment before Beckett assumes that Finley stalked him there. She denies it and asks Beckett what he’s doing at a modest bed-and-breakfast place instead of staying at a fancy hotel. Beckett says it’s because he’s trying to avoid fans and paparazzi, and no one would suspect him of staying at this bed-and-breakfast place.
Emma practically faints when she sees Beckett. Sean and Nora tell Emma and Finley to keep it a secret that Beckett is staying there. Sean and Nora want Beckett to give good word-of-mouth reviews to the bed-and-breakfast, and they think that will only happen if they protect Beckett’s privacy. But, of course, Emma can’t keep it a secret, and she tells a few of her friends at her high school.
Finley tries to act like she’s not impressed by Beckett, and she says she doesn’t trust Beckett because she thinks he’s a playboy. But everyone watching this movie knows that she will eventually fall for Beckett. For quite a while, Beckett can’t seem to remember Finley’s name and keeps calling her other names that start with the letter “f,” especially Frankie. When someone you’re attracted to can’t remember your name, that’s supposed to be charming? Only in a dumb movie like this one.
Finley is curious enough about Beckett to look him up on the Internet. And it’s there that she sees that Beckett has an American actress girlfriend named Taylor Risdale (played by Katherine McNamara), whom he’s known since they were both child actors. Beckett and Taylor are described as a hot “it couple” by the media, and there’s a lot of news coverage about many aspects of their relationship.
Beckett’s main claim to fame is starring in a movie series called “Dawn of the Dragon,” which is depicted in “Finding You” as a very cheesy movie version of “Game of Thrones.” He’s in Ireland to film one of the movies in the “Dawn of the Dragon” series. Taylor is Beckett’s co-star/love interest in this “Dawn of the Dragon” movie, so she’s in Ireland too. Of course she is.
One stereotype that “Finding You” thankfully doesn’t have is portraying Taylor as completely jealous and vindictive. It would be easy to do when the love triangle part of the story starts to happen. Instead, Taylor is nice to Finley, even when it becomes clear that Beckett is attracted to Finley and has been hanging out with Finley more than is appropriate when he already has a girlfriend who’s nearby.
The seduction starts with Beckett showing up one night at Finley’s room to ask her if she could help him rehearse his script lines. At first she says no, but then she changes her mind. The first time Beckett reads lines with her is when Finley feels a real attraction to him. They almost kiss and then turn their heads away in embarrassment, as you do in a formulaic romantic movie like this one.
Beckett convinces Finley that he needs her to keep helping him with his lines, so he “hires” her as his assistant, even though he never pays her. At one point, Beckett starts to describe Finley as his “acting coach,” which is even more ludicrous. It’s all just an excuse for Beckett and Finley to spend more time together. Everyone knows it but Taylor, who is predictably the last to figure out that Beckett and Finley are falling for each other.
Beckett’s domineering manager also happens to be his father. Montgomery Rush (played by Tom Everett Scott) is a stereotypical, money-hungry “stage dad,” who’s a failed actor and is using his son Beckett to live vicariously through him. Montgomery (who is not married and there’s no mention of Beckett’s mother) has been pressuring Beckett to sign a five-movie, seven-year deal for “Dawn of the Dragon” spinoffs.
However, Beckett is reluctant to sign this lucrative deal because he wants to be known for more than just the “Dawn of the Dragon” movies. Montgomery doesn’t take Finley too seriously because he thinks she’s just another one of Beckett’s flings. Montgomery is essentially the main antagonist in “Finding You.”
Taylor becomes the story’s other antagonist when she thinks Beckett should sign the movie deal too. It turns out that Montgomery has been behind the leaks to the media about Beckett and Taylor’s relationship, so that Beckett’s name is kept in the news. Taylor knows that Montgomery has been manipulating the press in this way, and she doesn’t mind at all. In fact, she encourages it. On paper, Taylor and Beckett seem like a “perfect” couple, but Taylor is depicted as too shallow for Beckett, and he’s starting to see how incompatible they are.
Beckett only starts to see how much of a dead-end relationship he’s in after he meets Finley, who’s not dazzled by his celebrity status and encourages Beckett to be his own man, not the person Beckett’s father wants him to be. Viewers are supposed to believe that because of Finley, Beckett starts to feel like he wants to experience more “normal” things, because he’s been an actor since he was 7 years old. Beckett has a high school degree, but he never went to a graduation ceremony and he never went to a prom because he was too busy working. And he thinks he might want to put his actor career on hold to go to college.
As Finley and Beckett start to spend more time together, she opens up to him about her goal of becoming a professional violinist and about a tragedy in her past, because the heroine in a story like this always has to have a tragedy to make her look more sympathetic. Finley’s tragedy is that her brother Alex died shortly after he got back to America from Ireland. One of the reasons why she’s in Ireland is to pay tribute to him and try to heal from her grief over his death.
Unbeknownst to Finley and her family, Alex left behind a sketch book of drawings and poems at the Callaghan home. Finley finds out when Nora gives the book to Finley shortly after Finley arrives in Ireland. Nora explains that she didn’t feel right about mailing this book to Finley’s family because Nora feared it might get lost in the mail or possibly sent to the wrong address. And so, Nora kept the book for all of these years.
In the sketch book, Finley sees that Alex drew a very unusual stone crucifix that looks partially broken at the top. It looks like the crucifix is part of a gravestone in a graveyard. And so, Finley becomes determined to find this crucifix, which she assumes is somewhere in Ireland. She’s sure that when she finds this crucifix, there will be a special meaning that Alex would want her to get out of this discovery. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
Emma’s high school has a snooty mean girl named Keeva (played by Anabel Sweeney), who was cast as an extra in Beckett’s movie. Keeva’s only purpose in “Finding You” is to brag about being in Beckett’s movie, act like a catty snob about it to Emma and other people, and then get her comeuppance when Beckett starts paying attention to Finley. Emma acts like an overeager puppy dog around Finley, to the point where she calls Finley her “sister.” And therefore, Emma feels like a Beckett Rush “insider” when Finley inevitably gets closer to Beckett and confides in Emma about her dates with Beckett.
There’s also a subplot of Finley being assigned to visit a senior citizen at a nursing home, as part of her school’s “Adopt a Senior” program. And, of course, she’s assigned to a grouchy and bitter loner, whose name is Cathleen Sweeney (played by Vanessa Redgrave), who doesn’t want to have any visitors. Cathleen is very rude to Finley in their first meeting and she orders Finley to leave.
Finley tries to get assigned to someone else, but the nursing home supervisor who’s in charge of the “Adopt a Senior” program tells Finley that Finley can’t change her assigned senior. Finley can’t quit the program either, because an essay on her “Adopt a Senior” experience is required for her to pass whatever student class has this “Adopt a Senior” program. And so, in a very contrived situation, Finley and Cathleen have to spend time together, even though they don’t like each other very much in the beginning.
What does Finley do to pass the time with Cathleen? She reads books to her. And the reading list is laughable because it’s so odd. First, Finley reads Jane Austen’s classic “Pride and Prejudice.” And then she reads Stephenie Meyer’s young adult vampire novel “Twilight.” And that rate, Finley might as well start reading this crabby old lady some “Fifty Shades of Grey” too. Finley doesn’t, but you get the idea of how weird and random it is that “Finding You” has Finley reading “Twilight” to a senior citizen.
And because “Finding You” has to fill up the story with more treacly melodrama, Finley finds out that Cathleen (who is widowed with no children) has been a longtime outcast in the town. It’s because years ago, when she was a young woman, Cathleen married the wealthy man who was engaged to Cathleen’s sister Fiona Doyle. Cathleen and her sister Fiona have remained estranged ever since. Cathleen eventually left her husband, and he was so heartbroken that he drank himself to death, as the story goes in the town. The townspeople have blamed Cathleen for this man’s death and consider her to be heartless and evil.
Finley finds out this story from Nora, after Finley looks in Cathleen’s desk drawer and sees a stack of unopened “return to sender” mail that Cathleen sent to Fiona, who is Cathleen’s only living relative. Finley asks Nora who Fiona Doyle is and why Fiona is returning Cathleen’s mail unopened. Nora is also one of the townspeople who has a negative opinion of Cathleen.
Because Finley is very nosy, she decides she’s going to track down Fiona and try to “fix” this family rift. And there’s a “race against time” aspect to this intrusiveness because of a reason that’s very easy to predict for an old person in a nursing home. It’s also easy to predict that there’s more to the Cathleen/Fiona story than the townspeople’s gossip.
Finley should be the last person to judge other people’s love triangles, because she’s gotten herself involved in a messy love triangle too, but this movie tries to embellish it in the most hypocritical ways. While Finley acts so self-righteous to other people about their lives, she’s sneaking around and dating Beckett (and yes, they eventually kiss) while Taylor is still Beckett’s girlfriend. Beckett is cheating on Taylor with Finley, and neither Beckett nor Finley seems to feel too guilty about it.
But being a knowing participant in infidelity doesn’t fit the “innocent ingenue” narrative for Finley that this movie tries to push on the audience, so this cheating scenario is depicted as Beckett finding true love with Finley, while he’s in an “arranged” relationship with Taylor. Never mind that he’s being dishonest with Taylor. Meanwhile, Emma and Finley breathlessly talk like giddly schoolgirls about Finley’s dates with Beckett. It all just leads to the over-used “redemption of the bad boy” narrative that so many of these stale romance movies have, with Finley being the one to “save” Beckett from his arrogant ways.
The movie shows Finley and Beckett spending time at a pub callled Taffee’s Castle. It’s here where a town drunk named Seamus (played by Patrick Bergin) hangs out, and he sleeps on a bench outdoors during the day. In a movie filled with stereotypes, it should come as no surprise that “Finding You” has the most predictable stereotype for a movie that takes place in Ireland: an alcoholic character. Fortunately, Seamus is the “jolly drunk” type.
And you can do a countdown to the expected scene of Seamus playing the fiddle with a band at the pub, Beckett whispering something to Seamus on stage, and then Seamus announcing to the pub that they have a special guest player in the audience, as Seamus demands that Finley come up on stage to play the fiddle with him and the band. Finley then shakes her head and protests until she reluctantly gets up on stage. She says she plays the violin, not the fiddle, as Seamus hands her a fiddle and tells her that a fiddle is practically the same as a violin.
And it’s here that viewers can predict that Seamus is in the movie so he can teach Finley how to play a musical instrument with her heart more than with her head. Yes, there are more scenes later of Finley and Seamus playing the fiddle together. It’s all so schmaltzy and unimaginative.
There are also a few scenes where Beckett spends time with Finley when she’s visiting with Cathleen. In one scene, Beckett is bizarrely dressed up as someone’s version of a 1960s hippie who looks like a reject from the “Woodstock” movie. It’s supposed to be Beckett’s way of charming Cathleen, who’s from the Woodstock Generation.
Beckett says some old hippie jargon to get Cathleen to like him. It’s very pandering and insulting to people’s intelligence. But in a stupid movie like this one, this manipulation works with Cathleen, who approves of Beckett and tells Finley that he’s a good man and a “keeper.” Finley doesn’t tell Cathleen that Beckett is cheating on his girlfriend Taylor by dating Finley.
Meanwhile, in a ridiculous movie like “Finding You,” while Finley is traipsing around Ireland with Beckett, spending time being his “acting coach”/assistant on and off the movie set, playing the fiddle with Seamus, searching for that mystery crucifix, reading books to Cathleen, and trying to force Cathleen’s estranged sister Fiona (played by Helen Roche) to reunite with Cathleen, at no time is Finley actually seen in any classes or doing any studying. It makes you wonder why the filmmakers made Finley an American student who’s supposed to be enrolled in an Irish school, when she just really acts like an American on holiday in Ireland.
The acting in this movie is unremarkable, even with the great Vanessa Redgrave in the cast. She plays a very cranky character in the movie, so she might not have had to do much acting, since most Oscar-winning actors would be cranky too if they ended up in this type of schlocky movie. As for the “fairytale” couple in this story, Goodacre is much more believable and expressive in his role as Beckett than Reid is as Finley, who is as bland as bland can be.
However, there’s only so much actors can do when the dialogue ranges from basic to silly. The scenery in Ireland looks nice in the movie though. But that’s not enough to watch “Finding You,” when there are plenty of better romantic dramas that are set in Ireland. (Some examples: 2007’s “Once,” 2010’s “Ondine” and, for a New York City-Ireland connection, 2015’s “Brooklyn.”) Ultimately, “Finding You” sticks to an over-used formula to such a lazy degree that it makes the movie irrelevant and forgettable.
Roadside Attractions released “Finding You” in U.S. cinemas on May 14, 2021.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Ireland and in New York City, the romantic drama “Wild Mountain Thyme” has an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: Two oddball Irish farmers—one female and one male—have very different views of love and marriage, while the male famer’s rich American businessman cousin might be part of a love triangle for this would-be couple.
Culture Audience: “Wild Mountain Thyme” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching romantic movies that are pretentious and ridiculous.
The production notes for “Wild Mountain Thyme” describe the movie as a “comedic, moving and wildly romantic tale.” Comedic? The reality is that “Wild Mountain Thyme” is a drama with a lot of unintentionally so-bad-it’s-funny moments. Moving? This painfully dull movie doesn’t pour on the sentimental sap until the last 15 minutes of the film—and it does so in the corniest way possible. Wildly romantic? The characters in “Wild Mountain Thyme” are so dysfunctional and/or emotionally repressed that there’s almost no passionate romance in the film, and the characters spend most of the movie bickering about land ownership and who’s a legitimate farmer.
“Wild Mountain Thyme,” which takes place mostly in Ireland and partially in New York City, was written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, who adapted the movie from his 2014 Broadway play “Outside Mullingar.” Even though Shanley has won an Oscar (for writing 1987’s “Moonstruck”) and a Tony and a Pulitzer (for the play “Doubt: A Parable”), those prestigious awards don’t mean that someone is incapable of making an embarrassing stinker. “Wild Mountain Thyme” is an overly verbose story that ultimately doesn’t have much to say and should have remained on the stage, where pretentiously worded dialogue is expected and therefore much more palatable than it is for a movie audience.
“Wild Mountain Thyme” (which was filmed primarily in Mayo County, Ireland) gets its name because there are scenes in the movie where people sing “Wild Mountain Thyme” in a pub. The cinematic version of the story also greatly benefits from showcasing the lush and gorgeous landscape of rural Ireland. There’s no denying that the film’s cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt is one of the movie’s few high points.
But right from the start, the tone of “Wild Mountain Thyme” is off-kilter, by having a dead character as the movie’s intermittent guide/storyteller. There’s voiceover narration from Irish farmer Tony Reilly (played by Christopher Walken, doing his usual eccentric schtick) explaining how the would-be couple at the center of the story first came to know each other. Tony announces at the beginning of the narration that he’s dead, so people will know that they’re supposed to be hearing the voice of a ghost. Very morbid.
Tony says, “They say if an Irish man dies while telling a story, you can rest assured, he’ll be back.” This movie is so unimaginative that, sure enough, toward the end of the film, Tony’s voice comes back into the narration to repeat the same line. The narration is really unnecessary because Tony doesn’t provide any insight that isn’t already presented in the movie characters’ actions.
“Wild Mountain Thyme” producer Martina Nilan is quoted in the movie’s production notes as saying that “Wild Mountain Thyme” is “a timeless fable with a heightened fairy-tale tone.” However, the movie isn’t timeless and actually is very outdated with its old-fashioned views of strict gender roles for men and women when it comes to love and romance. Based on what the “Wild Mountain Thyme” characters say and how they act, they believe that women’s ultimate goal in life should be to get married and have children, and women have to wait until men make the first move in a courtship.
The movie also has the sexist notion that women who’ve never been married by a certain age have to be desperate to get married. “Wild Mountain Thyme” also pushes a narrative that a woman isn’t considered a “real woman” unless she wants to become a mother or is a mother. Meanwhile, men who’ve never been married and have no kids by a certain age might be considered “strange,” but they don’t have to be desperate to find a spouse.
It’s this moldy concept that stinks up the “will they or won’t they” relationship of Rosemary Muldoon (played by Emily Blunt) and Anthony Reilly (played by Jamie Dornan), two Irish farmers who embody the old-fashioned stereotypes of what usually happens in romantic dramas: The woman wants to be romanced by the man and be in a committed relationship with him that leads to marriage, while the man spends almost the entire story resisting. In other words, the man always has the “upper hand,” because he’s the one who decides if there will be a romantic relationship or not.
The movie sticks to this formula like patriarchal glue. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a story about falling in love and wanting to get married and have kids. But the way this story is told in “Wild Mountain Thyme” is extremely off-putting because the filmmakers want to pretend that it’s a feminist movie, when it’s just the opposite. For almost the entire movie, Rosemary mopes around and sulks because she’s waiting for Anthony to show a sign that he wants more than a platonic relationship.
As Anthony’s dead father Tony explains in the narration, Rosemary has been in love with Anthony since they were both 10 years old. (In flashbacks, Abigail Coburn plays a young Rosemary, while Darragh O’Kane plays a young Anthony.) The Reilly family and Muldoon family are farmers who live right next door to each other in rural Ireland, so the kids grew up knowing nothing but life on a farm.
The adult Rosemary and Anthony in this story are now in their late 30s. Because of Tony’s ghostly narration, this entire story is a flashback. Tony’s death and funeral are eventually shown in the movie.
The Muldoon family owns a strip of land that overlaps into the entrance of the Reilly family’s home. Tony tries in vain to get the Muldoon family to sell that strip of land to him. The questions over who owns this strip of land and who will inherit the entire Reilly family property are sources of contention throughout the story.
Anthony’s widower father Tony wants Anthony to inherit the farm. However, Tony is having doubts about his son’s ability to handle the responsibility because Anthony is an emotionally immature loner who doesn’t seem very smart about the business side of running the farm. Tony also disapproves of Anthony not showing any interest in getting married and having kids, while Anthony is extremely unwilling to become a husband and father. In fact, Anthony shows no interest in having a committed relationship with anyone.
What’s odd is that later in the story, Tony mentions Anthony’s two other siblings: Trish and Audrey, who are never seen or heard in the film. It’s implied that these two sisters are still alive somewhere. But because the movie has a sexist tone to it, these female characters are easily dismissed and never mentioned again, as if Anthony is the only rightful heir in the family.
Tony’s wife Mary (played by Clare Barrett), who died when the children were young, is also sidelined. She’s only seen briefly in flashbacks, where she’s cheerfully singing or cooking in the kitchen by herself, with no lines of dialogue. Considering this film’s sexist attitude about women only existing to be wives and mothers, it’s no wonder that Mary is only seen in the kitchen.
At one point in the movie, Tony admits to Anthony that he married Mary out of loneliness, not out of love, but that Tony eventually came to appreciate his wife, who was the one who pushed for them to get married in the first place. It’s an obvious parallel to what’s going on with Rosemary and Anthony. The only time that Anthony mentions his mother is when he tells Rosemary: “When my mother died, I couldn’t see colors anymore.” Cue the violins.
Rosemary is an only child who lives with her widowed and very opinionated mother Aoife (played by Dearbhla Molloy), who also wants Rosemary to get married and start her own family. But Rosemary is pining over an emotionally stunted Anthony, because she thinks he’s “the one.” Aoife (who affectionally calls Rosemary “mad,” as in crazy) also thinks that Anthony is a good match for Rosemary, but you get the impression that Aofie mainly wants to see Rosemary become a wife and mother to any suitable man who might come along.
Rosemary won’t come right out and tell Anthony that she has romantic feelings for him because she expects him to do the “manly” thing and make the first move and ask her out on a date. When Anthony tells her that he’ll never get married, she says that she doesn’t believe him. Rosemary even tells Anthony that she will have her eggs frozen if necessary, until he comes around to the idea of being her husband and the father of her children. But Anthony just acts confused and slightly repulsed (apparently he’s ignorant about modern fertility treatments) and tries to ignore Rosemary’s desperation.
In a flashback to Rosemary’s childhood as a 10-year-old, she’s doing what she usually does in this movie: pouting and obsessing over Anthony. Her father Chris (played by Don Wycherley) notices Rosemary sulking at the kitchen table. She tells her father in a depressed voice: “I’m just a girl. The world is full of girls.”
Her father responds by saying, “You’re not just a girl … You’re a queen … You are the white swan … It means no one can top you. The world is yours. You can do anything.”
Because of this little pep talk, Rosemary becomes fascinated with the ballet “Swan Lake.” There are several references to “Swan Lake” throughout the movie. And these “Swan Lake” references are as cloying and sappy as you might think they are.
In the beginning of the movie, which jumps around in flashbacks throughout the film, Chris has died, so viewers don’t really get to see the relationship that Rosemary had with Chris when she was an adult. However, Rosemary is very close to her mother, who can often get on Rosemary’s nerves with nagging about Rosemary being a spinster. However, no one puts more pressure on Rosemary to become a wife and mother than Rosemary herself.
There’s also a hint that Tony has been attracted to Aofie for quite some time, but he didn’t act on that attraction because she was married. Not long after Chris’ funeral, Tony doesn’t waste time in flirting with Aofie and making it clear that he’d like to get to know her better if she’s interested. Thankfully, that potentially awkward storyline goes nowhere.
After Chris’ death, Rosemary has fully taken over the Muldoon farm’s operations. Of course, the movie doesn’t actually show her doing much dirty work on the farm, since the filmmakers want to confine Rosemary in the stereotypical role of woman who’s mainly concerned with getting an uninterested man to be her husband. There are some scenes with some adorable animals though, with the predictable cute “reaction” shots of an expressive pet dog who seems to know what the humans are saying and has the head tilt and emotional eyes to prove it.
In the ghostly narration, Tony describes Rosemary as being “besotted with love,” which will make viewers wonder if Rosemary’s obsession with Anthony is true love or if she’s just in love with the idea of being married and having her own family. The filmmakers try to make Rosemary look like a moody, tobacco-smoking feminist (she smokes cigarettes and pipes), but she’s really just a run-of-the-mill “damsel in distress” who’s waiting around for a sour and grumpy Anthony to rescue her from her loneliness.
In addition to the cliché of a desperate woman longing for an emotionally unavailable man, “Wild Mountain Thyme” has another over-used cliché in movies about romance: the possibility of a love triangle. It starts from Rosemary and Anthony’s childhood, when there are a few brief scenes of a character named Fiona (played by Anna Weekes), whom Rosemary sees as a threat for Anthony’s affections. It’s mentioned that in her childhood, Rosemary even got into a physical fight with Fiona, by pushing her down. The adults didn’t do much about it but give Rosemary a mild scolding.
However, just like all the female characters with supporting roles in the movie, Fiona only seems to be there for filler and not to further the story in any way. When Anthony and Rosemary are adults, there is a brief reference to Fiona when Anthony mentions to Rosemary that he saw Fiona by chance somewhere and he had brief conversation with her. (Anthony and Fiona’s conversation is never shown in the movie.) Rosemary gets visibly jealous when she hears that Anthony and Fiona were in contact with each other.
There’s a brief scene that shows Anthony is interested in dating women when he has a drunken encounter with a pretty but scruffy blonde named Eleanor (played by Lydia McGuinness), who’s got spiky and messy hair styled like the ’80s female pop trio Bananarama. Anthony and Eleanor meet in a pub, get drunk together, and hang out on a ledge, where she confesses some sordid sexual secrets to him. She’s so tipsy that she loses her balance and falls off of the ledge. Eleanor is never seen again in the movie.
The main love triangle in the story is between Anthony, Rosemary and Adam (played by Jon Hamm), who is the American son of Tony’s brother. Adam is a single, successful money manager in New York City, because apparently the “Wild Mountain Thyme” filmmakers want to shut out any possibility that there are plenty of eligible bachelors in Ireland who could catch Rosemary’s fancy. Adam, who is very brash and confident, loves to flaunt his wealth. And by his own admission, Adam relishes being the center of attention.
Because Tony has doubts about Anthony’s ability to take care of the farm, he tells Anthony that he’s contemplating having Adam inherit the farm, even though Adam has no experience in farming. However, Tony is impressed with Adam’s business skills and he thinks the farm has a better chance of thriving if Adam took over the operations.
And so, Adam is invited to Ireland to look over the farm. Adam thinks of himself as someone who can easily be a farmer, because it’s something that he’s been fantasizing about for a while. However, it’s clear as soon as Adam comes to visit, he’s really a city dweller at heart. He wants to own the farm, not be an actual farmer.
Because he’s a showoff, Adam drives up to the farm one day in a silver Rolls Royce, which greatly impresses Tony. Meanwhile, Anthony is naturally feeling overshadowed and unappreciated when Adam is around. Anthony makes a point of telling Adam that he’s not a real farmer. The business-minded Adam is appalled that Anthony and Rosemary don’t know how many acres of farm land that they have.
It isn’t long before Adam shows that he’s attracted to Rosemary. The feeling isn’t really mutual, but Rosemary likes the attention, which is something that she doesn’t get from Anthony. Whereas Anthony can’t even be bothered to go over to the Muldoon house to visit Rosemary (even though she lives next door), Adam eagerly invites Rosemary to visit New York City, within a few hours of meeting her. Rosemary tells Adam that she’d love to go to the theater in New York. And this is the point in the movie where viewers can predict that if Rosemary does ever go to visit Adam in New York, you know exactly which stage production she’ll want to see.
Meanwhile, whenever Anthony gets irritated with Rosemary (which is often), he tells her that she should think about selling the farm and that she should leave Ireland. She usually replies in a huff that maybe she will leave. But she’s not fooling anyone. Rosemary is too obsessed with Anthony to leave.
Anthony occasionally mentions that he’s thinking about leaving farm life behind too. At one point, he makes a very un-patriotic comment about Ireland: “It’s a terrible place for a decent person.” Anthony, who keeps telling people that he thinks he’s “mad” (as in mentally ill), is also somewhat of a social outcast in the community.
Anthony’s oddball reputation is further fueled after an incident when a neighbor named Cleary (played by Barry McGovern) sees Anthony practicing a marriage proposal in a field. Anthony is rehearsing this proposal because he’s starting to wonder if maybe he should marry someone someday. Anthony thinks the only witness to his “marriage proposal rehearsals” is a donkey in the field.
But the nosy neighbor sees Anthony and wrongly assumes that Anthony is proposing marriage to the donkey. He tells other local people about what he saw, and soon Anthony becomes part of a community joke that Anthony might be into bestiality. Although this notion about Anthony is far-fetched, it at least accurately demonstrates how quickly gossip can spread in a small town.
When Rosemary asks Anthony why he won’t leave the farm, he replies: “These green fields and the animals living off them. And then there’s us living off of the animals. And over that, that what tends to us, lives off us maybe. Whatever that is, it holds me here.” This is the type of eye-rolling dialogue that’s littered throughout the movie.
“Wild Mountain Thyme” has scene after scene that’s supposed to be “deep philosophy from Irish farmers who look like movie stars,” but it all just sounds like nonsensical crap. For example, Rosemary asks Anthony: “How many days do we have until the sun shines?” Anthony replies, “It’s not shining.” Rosemary then says, “I believe that it is.” Obviously, this is a not-so-subtle reference to Rosemary’s optimism about love and Anthony’s pessimism. And only in a badly written entertainment project do farmers really talk like that.
One of the worst things about “Wild Mountain Thyme” is that it pushes a narrative that a romantic person who’s desperate to be in love, just by sheer force of will and being persistent, can “change” a person who resists the romantic person’s amorous intentions and the romantic can “make” that person fall in love with them. But “Wild Mountain Thyme” can’t even push this narrative in a clever way. It’s an unhealthy approach to relationships because true love is accepting people for who they are, not trying to change them to fit someone else’s fantasies.
One of the most cringeworthy scenes in the movie is when Rosemary and Anthony have an argument after she tells him about an encounter that she had with Adam where Adam made it very clear that Adam is interested in dating Rosemary. Rosemary declares to Anthony during this argument: “I want a man! Adam smells like soap! He smells like the lilies of the field!”
Anthony replies, “Why would you want to smell the cows on me, when you can smell the lilies on him?” Rosemary shouts, “I’m the one who should smell good! A man should stink—like you!”
And then, Rosemary says to Anthony: “It’s good that you’re tall. Men are beasts. They need that height to balance the truth and goodness of women.” We shudder to think what Rosemary might think about men who are short or average-sized. What’s also strange about this dialogue is that Anthony isn’t really that tall.
Anthony replies to Rosemary by saying something that viewers are thinking at this point: “There’s no answer to blather like that.” Rosemary continues undaunted, with a pseudo-feminist rant: “Hope is a force. And women are the salvation of the world! I believe that, and mean to make you believe it!”
The actors should be commended for not doing this scene without breaking out into laughter at the ridiculousness of it all. That’s no guarantee that people watching the movie won’t laugh (or groan or cringe) at this scene, which is intended to be a serious emotional moment in the film, but comes across as something that might be in a rejected soap opera script. And again: What kind of farmers talk like they’re competing in a Bad Prose of the Year contest?
Blunt gives it her best shot to make Rosemary as feisty and “lovable” as possible. But it’s all just a façade, because Rosemary’s actions and intentions show how she’s not the strong-minded, independent woman she would like think she is. Almost everything she does in the story is to try to impress Anthony or get a reaction out of him. Her self-esteem is wrapped up in him, not in herself.
And the chemistry between Blunt and Dornan isn’t very believable, not the least of which because Anthony is supposed to be this sulking, brooding type who does everything he can to avoid having a serious romance with anyone. At one point in the story, Rosemary asks Anthony if he’s gay. He emphatically says “no,” and acts very offended by the question. And when Rosemary asks him if he’s a virgin, he scoffs at the idea.
You can’t really blame Rosemary for asking, because there’s no indication that Anthony has ever had a serious girlfriend. One of the biggest flaws of “Wild Mountain Thyme” is that even though the main characters in this movie talk a lot, they don’t really show much personality. Anthony comes across as cold and very hard to read. Rosemary’s only real passion is trying to get Anthony to fall in love with her.
However, fans of Blunt (who starred in the Disney movie musicals “Into the Woods” and “Mary Poppins Returns”) will at least be happy to know that she does sing quite well in “Wild Mountain Thyme,” since she has a solo performance when Rosemary gets up on stage at a pub to sing “Wild Mountain Thyme.” Dornan also breaks out into song in the movie. And the music in “Wild Mountain Thyme” is a family affair, since Dornan’s wife Amelia Warner is the film’s composer.
The biggest unintentional laughs in the movie are toward the end, when Anthony confesses a secret to Rosemary, after she begs him to tell her why he’s so against the idea of falling in love and getting married. It’s when the movie goes from bad to beyond redemption, and takes an abrupt turn into the depths of phony schmaltziness. “Wild Mountain Thyme” tries to throw in this sweet sentimentality to try to pander to a certain formula, but the movie really just stinks like the garbage that it is.
Bleecker Street released “Wild Mountain Thyme” in U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on December 11, 2020.
Culture Representation: The documentary “Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan” features an all-white group of people discussing the life and career of Irish-British singer/songwriter Shane MacGowan, who is best known as the former lead singer of The Pogues.
Culture Clash: MacGowan has had lifelong battles with drug addiction, mental illness and the prejudices between Irish and British cultures.
Culture Audience: Besides the obvious target audience of MacGowan fans, “Crock of Gold” will appeal primarily to people interested in an unflinching look at what happens when a self-destructive artist ruins his health and career and knows that his best creative days are behind him.
A lot of hedonistic rock stars would like to think that they can be like Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Despite being an admitted and notorious alcoholic, drug addict and heavy smoker (the only drug he’s admitted to quitting is heroin), Richards is still able to function and do tours with one of the most successful rock bands of all time. He says he’ll never retire. And because of his down-to-earth, roguish charm, as well as his influential legacy of legendary songwriting and musicianship, Richards isn’t just a respected rock star. He’s beloved.
But the reality is that Richards is something of a medical miracle and truly an exception to the type of lifestyle that leaves most people dead before they reach middle-age or living a deteriorating existence plagued with myriads of health problems once they reach a certain age. It’s exactly this reality faced by Shane MacGowan, the Irish-British singer/songwriter who’s best known as the former lead singer of The Pogues. Richards is 14 years older than MacGowan, who was born in 1957, but MacGowan looks much older than most people in his own age group. Although there’s a noticeable tone of celebrity worship in the documentary “Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan,” the movie also shows without judgment that celebrities aren’t the invincible gods some people would like to think they are.
Johnny Depp (who’s had his own very public battles with substance abuse) is a producer of the documentary. And he’s a longtime friend of MacGowan and of Richards. (Depp directed a documentary about Richards in the 2010s that remains unreleased.) Depp appears throughout “Crock of Gold,” in scenes in a pub where he, MacGowan and MacGowan’s wife Victoria Mary Clarke are gathered for a very obviously intoxicated MacGowan and Depp to trade quips and memories about their lives and friendship.
It’s a microcosm of what this documentary is about: a select number of MacGowan’s family and friends reminiscing with him about his past, while mostly avoiding talking about his present or future. And it’s obvious to see why. The present-day MacGowan is confined to a wheelchair and barely coherent. Everything he says in the movie—from his past interviews to the interviews that he filmed for this documentary—has to have subtitles, not because of his thick accent but because he’s constantly slurring his words. It should surprise no one that he drinks alcohol during the documentary interviews and never seems to be sober.
On the one hand, “Crock of Gold” (directed by Julien Temple) veers into “hero worship” territory where people are afraid to say the obvious out loud: MacGowan is a mess and a faded shell of his former self. On the other hand, no one really has to say it out loud. It’s all painfully obvious from the footage that’s in the movie.
The problem with making a documentary about an often-incoherent celebrity who rambles a lot is that the documentary can be incoherent and rambling too. Although “Crock of Gold” is worth watching as the definitive visual biography of MacGowan, the movie also tends to be unfocused and repeat itself like, well, a drunk who can’t stop talking about how great he thinks he is. Simply put: This 124-minute movie could’ve used better editing.
There are only so many times that we need to hear MacGowan say how he was chosen by God to save Irish music, or brag about his intoxicated shenanigans over the years, or preach about how much he loves the IRA (Irish Republican Army) before it gets too boring and repetitive. The movie tends to overstate MacGowan’s influence in worldwide pop culture. He’s actually revered mostly in Europe, not so much in other continents. And everyone who participated in this documentary knows that MacGowan made his best music in the 1980s, because that’s the decade that gets the most screen time when discussing MacGowan’s creativity.
When watching “Crock of Gold,” it becomes apparent that the filmmakers couldn’t get a lot of recent interview footage for MacGowan to film for this documentary. Instead, there’s a mishmash of quotes from interviews that MacGowan did over the years for various media outlets. Some of these interviews are shown as archival video clips in the documentary, but most are used as voiceovers. Therefore, viewers can’t really be sure which period of time the voiceover comments were made in, because they’re not identified by year or media outlet.
The other way that “Crock of Gold” fills up its screen time is through animation, stock news footage and a random selection of unrelated film clips to depict MacGowan’s commentary. It’s a technique that documentary aficionados will see right away as an indication that the filmmakers just didn’t have enough original, exclusive footage of MacGowan to fill a feature-length film, so they had to resort to these gimmicks. Ralph Steadman fans will at least enjoy his eye-catching and unique animation of MacGowan’s several tales of hallucinations that MacGowan had while he was stoned. During one of those hallucinations, MacGowan says that he was in a hotel suite in New Zealand sometime in the late 1980s and imagined that blue Māori ghosts were telling him to be just like them, so he proceeded to paint himself and the entire suite blue while naked.
In “Crock of Gold,” there are many references to how MacGowan’s Catholic upbringing shaped him as a person; Irish folklore and “the luck of the Irish”; stereotypes of Irish people being drunks; and the love/hate relationship that MacGowan has with British culture. (He was born in Pembury, Kent, England; was raised in County Tipperary, Ireland; and his family moved back to England when he was 6 years old.) And there are some not-so-subtle comparisons that MacGowan makes of himself to Jesus Christ, just because MacGowan was born on Christmas Day.
In the beginning of the film, MacGowan is heard in a voiceover saying: “It’s God-given. I’ve been chosen to lead us out of the wilderness. God looked down on this little cottage in Ireland and said, ‘That little boy there, he’s the little boy that I’m gonna use to save Irish music and take it to greater popularity than it’s ever had before.'”
Apparently, MacGowan wants to forget about Van Morrison, the first world-famous Irish rock star who had a lot of Irish culture in his music. And, of course, Irish superstar band U2 was a commercial success, years before MacGowan ever released his first album with The Pogues in 1984. U2’s first album, “Boy,” was released in 1980, and U2’s Irish anthem “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was released in 1983.
In another voiceover, MacGowan also comments: “I’m sure, because I was born on Christmas Day, I was born lucky. I thank Christ for that.” But is MacGowan so “charmed” and “lucky,” considering all of his health problems and his admitted inability to no longer be the type of creative person he once was? Viewers will have to decide if they would want to be like MacGowan, and how much value should be put on “fame” when fame can’t buy health or happiness.
In the documentary, it’s clear that humility is not one of MacGowan’s virtues. He admits that he can be a difficult and “aggressive” person. And there’s a flash of his bad temper that’s shown during an interview, when he asks a female employee (it’s unclear if she’s a part of the film crew or an assistant), who’s not seen on camera: “Can you put on some recording? Some Northern soul? Tamla Motown?”
She responds by saying it can wait until later, after they’ve finished filming. (Obviously because she knows that having background music would mean having to get clearance for the music rights to use in the film.) MacGowan then snaps haughtily, “No, now! Or I don’t say another fuckin’ word!” It’s quite the display of obnoxious entitlement from a has-been rock star.
That’s not to say that MacGowan didn’t make great music, but even he knows that his relevancy as a prolific music artist is now over. The documentary doesn’t sugarcoat this fact, but it also doesn’t fully acknowledge that, given this irrelevancy, MacGowan doesn’t need to be coddled and worshipped as if he’s still making great music. This is very much a nostalgia film for MacGowan and anyone who appreciates the talent he had in the past.
MacGowan’s arrogant tantrum in this movie is an indication of what the filmmakers probably had to go through to get the exclusive interview footage that did end up in the documentary. A producer’s statement in the movie’s production notes confirms that it was difficult for the filmmakers to get MacGowan to open up for new interviews, so they enlisted the help of MacGowan’s wife Clarke and MacGowan’s friends Depp, Gerry Adams (former leader of the Irish political party Sinn Féin) and Bobby Gillespie (lead singer of the Scottish band Primal Scream) to interview him for the documentary.
The unidentified producer comments in the film’s production notes: “Various trips were made to Dublin during the course of 2019 in order to catch Shane in his natural habitat, although only a few attempts proved successful. More nuanced methods were required in order to capture those notorious, honest profundities native to Shane, that Julien was searching for. Ever distrustful of the cameras and any unnecessary lighting equipment, Shane would reveal himself when less proved to be more, surrounded by those he trusted. And it was through these conversations between Shane and this special coterie of specific individuals that the film began to grow.”
Depp’s pub interview with MacGowan is more like a conversation of humorous recollections. Their banter also includes MacGowan saying that before he was famous, he made money as a “rent boy.” MacGowan quips, “Just hand jobs. It’s just a job in hand.” MacGowan also tells Depp that Depp has probably never had to be a rent boy because Depp’s good looks gave him a lot of opportunities. “You’re a sugar cube baby,” MacGowan says to a chuckling Depp. “You’re so cute, you make me sick, actually.”
In another part of the interview, they joke about Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise. (Depp has said that Richards was the biggest influence in how Depp portrays the “Pirates of the Caribbean” character Jack Sparrow. Richards has also appeared in multiple “Pirates” movies as Jack Sparrow’s father.) “What made you think I was able to stay awake during ‘Pirates’?” MacGowan aks Depp. Depp replies with a laugh, “What makes you think I did?,” implying that he had a hard time staying awake too.
MacGowan’s interview with Adams focuses a lot on Irish history. It’s here where MacGowan gives a lot of commentary about his affinity for the IRA and how his songwriting was an extension of his ideological beliefs. MacGowan mentions more than once that he didn’t become an IRA soldier, but he became a musician instead to express his political views.
Gillespie’s conversation with MacGowan is mostly of MacGowan rambling about the music he made with The Pogues and his difficulties in the band. MacGowan gets the most personal and most vulnerable with Clarke, a journalist whom he married in 2018, after several years of being together as a live-in couple. They clearly love each other deeply, not in one of those showboat “I’m married to someone famous” way, but in the “ride or die” way that people who’ve been through the depths of despair together decide to stay together, no matter what.
The movie delves into the darkest parts of MacGowan’s personal history with his own reflections on his harrowing experiences with addiction and mental illness. He describes growing up in a very dysfunctional household, where he was encouraged to drink alcohol and even get drunk from the age of 6. MacGowan explains that a lot of people in Irish culture at the time believed that the younger a person starts drinking alcohol, the less likely that person will become an alcoholic because that person will learn at an early age how to handle alcohol. Obviously, that theory didn’t hold true for MacGowan, who also began smoking and doing drugs before he became a teenager.
The Catholic religion was also a big influence on MacGowan. As a child, MacGowan says he seriously contemplated becoming priest up until the age of 11. He thought it was an ideal job at the time because he saw the perks of the job as being able drink alcohol and smoke whenever he wanted.
“There was booze and cigarettes in heaven. That’s what I was told,” he says in the documentary. As an adolescent, MacGowan says he became so disillusioned with religion that he became an atheist. He mentions that his drug hallucinations about life had something to do with why he changed his mind about religion. But later on in his life, MacGowan says that he made peace with his Catholic upbringing.
Shane and his younger sister Siobhan (who was born in 1963) both say in the documentary that they grew up in a very permissive household. Their father Maurice MacGowan was a department-store clerk whom Shane describes as a “left-wing, IRA socialist supporter,” while Shane’s mother Therese was “beautiful” and “a brilliant singer.”
Maurice, who is now a widower, is interviewed in the documentary. There’s also archival footage of Maurice and Therese interviewed on TV about Shane. Maurice says in “Crock of Gold” how his relationship with Shane changed during Shane’s childhood: “He and I were like pals, until he was 12 and discovered Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc. … and sniffing glue.”
Shane comments that he was allowed to do whatever he wanted as a child, as long as he went to Mass. As an example of how his family was strict about religion but permissive about other things, Shane mentions that his Aunt Nora was the “religious leader” and “religious fanatic” of the family who also gave an underage Shane alcohol and cigarettes and taught him how to gamble. Shane also mentions: “My main hero when I was small was my Uncle John” and Shane says that his Aunt Ellen “was a shit-hot fucking concertina player.”
Shane identifies as Irish, but technically, he’s a British citizen too, since he was born in England and lived there for a great deal of his life. He talks a lot in the film about how moving back to England as a child was a major trauma for him, because Irish people experienced a lot of bigotry and violence from British people. Shane says that Irish people are always negatively stereotyped as being drunks, but he fails to see the irony that he has willingly reinforced that stereotype.
Shane remembers being bullied for being Irish, and he says that he grew to hate British culture. (When playing war games as a child, he says he always wanted to be an IRA soldier, not a British soldier.) And he also expresses his disdain for how British culture places a lot of emphasis on a family’s social class to determine how people will be treated in British society.
However, Shane says that he grew to love British culture too. As a teenager, around the same time that his parents split up, he discovered the London nightlife scene and punk music. The Sex Pistols had an enormous influence on him. (There’s archival footage of Shane in the front row at several punk concerts, including the Sex Pistols.) As for Irish artists, Shane cites poet Brendan Behan as another major influence: “He was the Irish writer I identified with the most.”
Shane’s youthful rebellion and drug addiction were seemingly intertwined. After winning a writing contest, he got a literature scholarship to attend the prestigious Westminster School, but he was expelled when he was caught being a drug dealer to the school’s students. This movie review doesn’t really need to rehash all of the sleazy and horrific drug-addict/alcoholic stories about him, some of which he talks about in the film. Tabloids, other media outlets and Shane himself have exhausted that topic.
However, Shane mentions that his parents let him and his druggie friends party a lot at the MacGowan household because his parents thought it was safer for them to do drugs in the house instead of in random places. Shane says that the most frightening experience that he had with drugs was when he was a teenager and took LSD with two friends named Jez and Sarah. Unfortunately, Sarah freaked out during her acid trip and threatened to jump off of the apartment’s balcony, while his father got very angry at what was going on.
Luckily, they were able to talk Sarah off of the balcony and she changed her mind about killing herself. And shortly afterward, she ended up becoming Shane’s girlfriend. (He describes seeing rainbows when they had sex.) This near-death experience with Sarah didn’t scare Shane off of drugs though, because he seems to almost be proud for being known as a hardcore alcoholic/drug addict who’s survived longer than people thought he would.
Shane is also candid about his mental-health struggles, which he’s talked about before in many other interviews. He says in the documentary: “I had my first nervous breakdown at 6 years old,” which he says was triggered because he was so unhappy in England. Later in the documentary, his sister Siobhan and father Maurice talk about the times that Shane was involuntarily committed to psychiatric facilities and the heartbreak it caused the family. They both say that Shane was never really the same after The Pogues’ grueling 1988 tour, which they believe broke him in many ways.
The documentary doesn’t reveal anything new about Shane’s career as a musician before, during and after The Pogues, a now-defunct band that was formed in 1982. There’s the expected archival concert footage and interviews of Shane and The Pogues over the years, but his former band mates are not interviewed for this documentary. The filmmakers wisely chose to not interview talking heads who are music industry “experts,” because that would go against Shane’s enduring punk spirit.
Frank Murray, the manager of The Pogues from 1985 to 1990, died in 2016, at the age of 66. Shane describes Murray as someone who acted like he wanted to be another member of The Pogues. And he mentions that Murray got a 20% cut of all of The Pogues’ concert revenues and music publishing. Siobhan hints that Murray was a greedy taskmaster because she partially blames the unrelenting Pogues tour schedule in 1988 as being the reason for Shane’s massive nervous breakdown that year.
Even before the breakdown, Shane says that he was getting sick of being in the band, which had commercial success with hit songs such as “Fairytale of New York” and “The Irish Rover.” In “Crock of Gold,” Shane repeats the story about how he went into a coma, after falling out of a van while the band was on a 1991 tour in Japan. When he woke up from the coma, the rest of the band fired him because his out-of-control drinking and drugging made him too unreliable.
Shane says his ouster from the Pogues was a “relief” for him. He went on to form another band (The Popes) and launched a solo career, but his creative output after The Pogues wasn’t as well-received by fans or critics. He gives credit to “Fairtyale of New York” duet partner Kirsty MacColl (who died in a boating accident in 2000, at the age of 41) for making the song the big hit that it was, but he also expresses mixed feelings about having that type of popularity.
By contrast, Shane doesn’t have much that’s good to say about Elvis Costello, who produced The Pogues’ 1985 second album “Rum Sodomy & the Lash,” which had the hit song “A Pair of Brown Eyes.” Shane says he fired Costello from producing the follow-up album to “Rum Sodomy & the Lash” because Costello was a “fat fuck” who was on a health-food diet and didn’t tolerate Shane’s decadent lifestyle. Shane also says that he wanted to fire Costello earlier, but the situation was complicated because Costello was romantically involved at the time with Pogues bassist Caitlin O’Riordan, who left the band in 1986. Costello and O’Riordan were married from 1986 to 2002.
But if you think “Crock of Gold” has Shane sharing a lot of inside stories about his musicianship or songwriting process, forget it. Except for a brief explanation of what inspired “Instrument of Death” (the first song he says he wrote) and “A Pair of Brown Eyes,” Shane doesn’t give further insight into how he crafted any of his songs. Most likely, his brain is too fried to remember a lot of great stories that he could’ve told about what it was like to create some of his songs that his fans love the most.
Instead, “Crock of Gold” seems intent on reminding people about Shane’s legacy in music. The end of the film includes footage from the 60th birthday tribute to Shane that was held at Dublin’s National Concert Hall in January 2018. Guest artists included U2 lead singer Bono, Nick Cave, Sinéad O’Connor, Gillespie and Depp. At the show, Shane was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Ireland president Michael D. Higgins.
When interviewer Adams asks Shane if he’s writing any new songs, Shane replies, “I’ve run out of inspiration at the moment.” In the interview with Clarke, she asks Shane what he wishes most to happen in his life. His response: “I’d like to prolifically write songs again.” And then, he gives a long pause before adding, “And I’d like to be able to play pool.”
Although anyone can see the damaging effects of Shane’s alcoholism and drug addiction (he will only admit to giving up heroin), his family members insist in the documentary that Shane doesn’t really want to die. These declarations from his family members can either be considered being optimistic or being in denial.
His sister Siobhan comments, “I certainly don’t think he has a death wish. It’s probably the opposite. He’s probably one of the people who doesn’t accept death at all, I don’t think.” Shane’s wife echoes that belief: “People think he’s got a death wish. When in actual fact, that’s not the case. He just doesn’t enjoy life without a drink.”
Even though Shane hasn’t lost his sense of humor, it’s clear that he’s deeply unhappy when he thinks about how he’ll never be able to recapture his glory days. His eyes also express a lot of fear and sadness when he talks about how his creative output isn’t what it used to be. For all of the tales that are told in “Crock of Gold” about sex, drugs and rock and roll, people can judge for themselves how it all worked out for Shane MacGowan and if his lifestyle choices were really worth it in the end.
Magnolia Pictures released “Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan” in select U.S. cinemas and on VOD and DVD on December 4, 2020.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Somalia and Ireland, the drama “A Girl From Mogadishu” (based on a true story) has a racially diverse cast (white and black) representing Somalian natives and refugees and Irish politicians and social workers.
Culture Clash: Ifrah Ahmed escapes war-torn Somalia for a life in Ireland, where she becomes a social activist campaigning to outlaw female genital mutilation.
Culture Audience: “A Girl From Mogadishu” will appeal primarily to people who like stories about social justice issues and immigrants who overcome difficult challenges.
The dramatic film “A Girl From Mogadishu” (written and directed by Mary McGuckian) takes on two very difficult subjects—war-torn Somalia and the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation (FGM)—and tells the story from the perspective of someone who’s experienced both in real life. The movie is a biography of Ifrah Ahmed, who fled Somalia when she was 15. She ended up in Ireland, and became a leading activist in a campaign to outlaw FGM, which has been a forced ritual (mostly inflicted on underage girls) in African cultures for centuries.
Aja Naomi King (who is American) gives a compelling performance as Ifrah, from the ages of 15 to her 20s. The entire movie has her voiceover narration, which works well in some scenes, but doesn’t work in others. The movie begins on December 28, 2006, with Ifrah running for her life on the day that’s known as the Fall of Mogadishu, when the militaries of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopian troops invaded the Somali capital.
Ifrah becomes separated from her family (her grandmother, her father and her brother) after the military raided the family home. She ends up in an empty house, where three military soldiers rape her. Ifrah has an aunt who lives in Minnesota, so Ifrah thinks her best chance for a life outside of Somalia is to go to the United States to live with her aunt.
Ifrah boards a bus to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. From there, she plans to go to the United States. But she has a close call in Addis Ababa when she finds out that she boarded the wrong bus, which is controlled by a sex trafficker.
She runs away from the wrong bus and boards another bus, which leads her to a family with a son named Hassan (played by Barkhad Abdi), who tells Ifrah that he can take her to the United States. The movie doesn’t make it clear how Ifrah was able to pay for this service, since it’s obvious that Hassan isn’t going to all this trouble out of the goodness of his own heart. This missing detail is an example of one of the flaws in this movie’s screenplay.
Hassan provides Ifrah with a passport and specific instructions to follow him and imitate what he does when they’re at the airport. It’s the first time that Ifrah ever gets on an escalator and goes on an airplane, so she’s understandably terrified. But when Ifrah and Hassan leave Ethiopia, they don’t arrive in the United States. They arrive in Ireland’s capital city of Dublin instead.
Ifrah is angry and confused over why Hassan lied to her, but he explains that Ifrah cannot stay with her aunt in Minnesota because her aunt is not a legal immigrant in the United States. Hassan tells Ifrah that she can seek asylum in Ireland. And then he drops her off in the cold winter night at a Dublin Asylum Seekers’ Center with nothing more than a note written in English with her name and why she needs asylum.
Because she is an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum, Ifrah is put into a group home called Ashton House and is placed under the care of social workers. She experiences major culture shock, not only because she can’t speak English but also because she has difficulty adjusting to the type of food that’s eaten in Ireland. In one scene, when a male social worker laughs at how Ifrah eats a bowl of cornflakes with her bare hands, she gets irritated and throws a shoe at him.
Ifrah is reprimanded, but she is able to communicate with the social worker that what she’s really frustrated about is not being able to speak English. With the help of a Somalian translator at Ashton House, Ifrah is able to better communicate with the staff. Ifrah has also become friends with another Somalian refugee at Ashton House. Her new friend is Amala (played by Martha Canga Antonio), and they both help each other learn English.
Ifrah’s life takes an unexpected and dramatic turn when she has her first medical exam in Ireland. The doctors are shocked to find out about her FGM. At first, Ifrah mistakenly thinks that their horrified reaction is because they think she’s HIV-positive. The doctors tell her she’s not HIV-positive and that they’re upset by the mutilation of her genital area. Ifrah replies, “This is my culture.”
However, when Ifrah figures out that FGM is not normal and is a major stigma in cultures outside of Africa, she’s overwhelmed by shame and starts sobbing uncontrollably. The next thing you know, there’s a flash forward to Ifrah as an anti-FGM activist giving a speech to a group of politicians. This sudden flash-forward scene is a little jarring and an example of better editing choices that director McGuckian could have made, since the movie keeps jumping back and forth in time in a way that doesn’t always transition smoothly.
The rest of the movie shows Ifrah’s anti-FGM activism and the increased progress and media attention that she and her allies received for this issue. With the help of Ireland’s Labour Party politicians Emer Costello (played by Orla Brady) and her husband Joe Costello (played by Stanley Townsend), Ifrah was able to get FGM outlawed in Ireland. And, accompanied by a NGO (non-governmental organization) rep (played by Luke Spencer Roberts), Ifrah travels to Africa to further her cause to get FGM banned.
The movie also depicts how Ifrah eventually opened up and went public with all the harrowing details of what happened to her during her FGM torture. She was mutilated at 8 years old with several other girls, and they were tied up for 40 days with a very limited ability to urinate. One of the girls got a urinary tract infection and died.
There’s a scene where Ifrah goes back to Somalia to confront her grandmother for allowing the FGM to happen to Ifrah. Hassan pops up out of nowhere and tells Ifrah, “Good girls keep things private and don’t talk.” Ifrah replies defiantly, “I will not be silenced! Not now, not ever, not even for my family!”
“A Girl From Mogadishu” has an important story to tell, but there are some flaws in how it’s told. The dialogue and narration are often simplistic and predictable. And the movie needed better editing, so that the story didn’t seem so choppy and jumbled during the flashback and flash-forward scenes. However, the acting, especially from King in the lead role, elevates the often-trite screenplay. Her performance is worth watching, even if she has to say a lot of lines that could have been written better.
The production design (by Emma Pucci) and costume design (by Nathalie Leborgne) complement the movie very well. For example, the film does a convincing recreation of Barack Obama’s 2011 visit to Ireland, with Ifrah among the thousands of people who went to see him give an outdoor speech in Dublin. Ifrah is also involved in doing fashion shows to raise money for her cause. Those fashion shows are depicted quite nicely in the film.
There are many scenes in “A Girl From Mogadishu” that look like a made-for-TV movie instead of a truly cinematic experience. Despite its flaws, “A Girl From Mogadishu” has emotional authenticity and respect for the traumatic subject matter (the real Ifrah Ahmed was a consultant for the movie), considering that FGM is rarely acknowledged in narrative feature films. This movie will help make people more aware that trying to stop FGM is not just a “women’s issue.” It’s also about human rights.
Showtime Women premiered “A Girl From Mogadishu” on July 15, 2020, and the movie is available on Showtime’s on-demand platforms. Pembridge Pictures will release the film internationally from November 25, 2020 to December 10, 2020.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Ireland and a magical underground world, the fantasy adventure “Artemis Fowl” has a racially diverse cast of characters (white, black and Asian) who portray humans, fairies, dwarves and goblins.
Culture Clash: A 12-year-old boy named Artemis Fowl , who must save his kidnapped father from an evil fairy, kidnaps a good fairy as bait for the ransom, setting off a battle between fairies and humans.
Culture Audience: “Artemis Fowl” will appeal primarily to fans of the “Artemis Fowl” book series who won’t mind watching a movie adaptation that is inferior to the books’ storytelling.
The “Harry Potter” books and films have set the bar pretty high for what can be achieved in making young-adult fantasy novels into movies. By comparison, “Artemis Fowl” is a mediocre mess of a film that clearly spent a lot of time on visual effects but not enough time in doing justice to the kind of storytelling that author Eoin Colfer has in his “Artemis Fowl” books. Almost everything that happens in the “Artemis Fowl” movie can be predicted by people in their sleep.
The long-delayed “Artemis Fowl” movie was supposed to be released in theaters, but instead was released directly to the Disney+ streaming service, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Directed by Kenneth Branagh (who’s hit-and-miss artistically when it comes to his big-budget films), “Artemis Fowl” isn’t the worst fantasy film that someone can ever see, but it’s a disappointing movie, considering the level of talent involved. Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl wrote the clunky “Artemis Fowl” screenplay, which is supposed to be an origin story, but the movie is highly unlikely to get a sequel.
The story takes place in Ireland, in an alternate modern reality where humans live above ground, while fairies and other creatures live in a below-ground place called Haven City. The movie begins with the news media in a frenzy because several priceless artifacts from around the world have been stolen. The chief suspect is a reclusive businessman/art dealer named Artemis Fowl Sr. (played by Colin Farrell), who lives in a mansion called Fowl Manor and who has mysteriously disappeared.
However, a suspected accomplice has been arrested: an oversized, thieving dwarf named Mulch Diggums (played by Josh Gad), who’s self-conscious over the fact that he’s much taller and bigger than the average dwarf. Mulch is taken to the MI6 Red Fort Interrogation Unit in Thames Estuary, London, where he begins to tell the story of Artemis Fowl Jr. (played by Ferdia Shaw), a precocious 12-year-old loner who’s frequently left to his own devices because his father goes away for long periods of time on secretive trips.
The Artemis Fowl father and son have a close relationship, but Artemis Jr. feels hurt and left out that his father won’t tell him where he’s going on these trips and exactly when he’ll be back. (Artemis Jr.’s mother is not seen or mentioned in the story.) Artemis Jr. has a friend/mentor/bodyguard named Domovoi Butler (played by Nonzo Anozie), who tells people that he hates to be called a butler. Domovoi has a relationship with Artemis Jr. that’s similar to the “Batman” story relationship between Alfred the butler and Bruce Wayne/Batman.
As Mulch tells it, Artemis Jr. doesn’t like school very much. He’s considered “different” and has found it difficult to make friends. There’s somewhat of an unnecessary scene where Artemis Jr. is talking to a school counselor, and then Artemis storms out because he thinks the counselor doesn’t understand him and the session is a waste of time.
Considering that Artemis Jr. spends the rest of the movie fighting battles like an adult, going to school isn’t a priority to him. It also didn’t make sense to show him at school in this movie because a kid like Artemis Fowl would probably be homeschooled, considering his father’s secretive and reclusive life. Why bother with nosy teachers and students?
At any rate, Artemis Jr. soon gets a phone call from the evil fairy who’s kidnapped his father. Let that sink in for a few seconds and try not to laugh at how dumb that plot sounds. We’ll have to assume they have caller ID blocking in Haven City.
The evil fairy tells Artemis Jr. that his father will be killed unless the fairy (an unnamed androgynous creature who’s in disguise with the creature’s face obscured) gets the ransom: a magical object called the Aculos, which has the power to open portals across the universe. The evil fairy tells Artemis Sr. that he’s been kidnapped as revenge for causing the deaths of some other fairies.
Artemis Jr. then comes up with a somewhat convoluted plan to get the good fairies of Haven City to help him find the Aculos. How? By kidnapping a fairy named Holly Short (played by Lara McDonnell), an enforcement officer who’s supposed to be 84 years old in fairy years, but she looks close to the age of Artemis Jr. (All of the fairies are human-sized.)
The good fairies, led by gravel-voiced Commander Root (played by Judi Dench, in yet another no-nonsense, unsmiling role), then descend upon Fowl Manor to rescue Holly. The fairies have the magical power of creating a force field around a certain area, where everyone in the force field can be temporarily frozen and have their memories erased.
This power is demonstrated in a scene where a giant troll crashes a wedding reception in Italy and attempts to kidnap a child and the good fairies come to the rescue. It’s an example of how this unfocused movie literally jumps all over the place.
But apparently, having magical powers isn’t enough for the fairies, because they also have a massive technology center at Haven City, complete with huge video monitors and computers. How very Earth-like. Except it’s not, because their chief technology officer is a fairy centaur named Foaly (played by Nikesh Patel).
And who else has teamed up with Artemis Jr. and Domovoi to help them fight off this large army of fairies? Domovoi’s 12-year-old niece Juliet Butler (played by Tamara Smart), who’s got martial-arts combat skills. The three allies are outnumbered, but they have some tech gadgets and guns for their battles—although the guns don’t seem to actually kill anyone, because Disney can’t have a movie with 12-year-old kids on a murder spree.
Mulch’s narration comes and goes in the story, which includes a scene of Mulch in a prison cell full of goblins who are hostile to him. It’s an example of a poorly written scene that seems to have no purpose other than to show Mulch in an uncomfortable situation and the visual effects of when he uses his magical ability to over-expand his mouth.
All of the actors do a serviceable job in their roles, although McDonnell frequently outshines her co-stars in her scenes. There are a few lines that might give people a chuckle, such as when a gruff Commander Root barks to subordinates, “Get the four-leaf clover out of here!” The way she slightly pauses before she says “four-leaf clover” makes it clear she could have said another “f” word, and then it would definitely not be a Disney movie,
The visual effects and production design of “Artemis Fowl” are good-enough, but they won’t be nominated for any major awards. Because there is so little character development in the movie, the action scenes are really what bring the most appeal to the film. Kids under the age of 10 might enjoy “Artemis Fowl,” but people with more discerning taste in fantasy films won’t find “Artemis Fowl” very impressive. “Artemis Fowl” might just make people want to watch an old “Harry Potter” movie instead.
Disney+ premiered “Artemis Fowl” on June 12, 2020.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Ireland and briefly in Alabama, the drama “End of Sentence” has an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class.
Culture Clash: After his wife dies, a father tries to reconnect with his estranged ex-convict son, as they travel to Ireland to spread her ashes for her last dying wish.
Culture Audience: “End of Sentence” will appeal primarily to people who like emotionally authentic dramas about difficult family relationships.
“End of Sentence” is one of those movies that has a unique family story to tell, but so much of the story is universally relatable to people, regardless of what kind of families they have. There are multiple layers to the relationship between the father and son at the center of the story—and that’s why “End of Sentence” should not be considered just another road-trip movie.
The story begins in Alabama, where American salesman Frank Fogle (played by John Hawkes) and his Irish-born wife Anna Fogle (played by Andrea Irvine) are visiting their only child, Sean Fogle (played by Logan Lerman), in Alabama Correctional Facility, where Sean has been locked up for auto theft. Anna is wearing a head scarf, which a prison employee tells her to remove due to prison rules. It’s obvious that she’s bald underneath the scarf, and she removes it with some self-conscious hesitation.
When Anna and Frank meet with Sean in the prison, Anna’s words to Sean confirm that she does have a terminal illness, when she says to Sean, “I’ve come to say goodbye.” Sean seems to be a hardened criminal, but he does show some affection when his mother hugs him. However, Sean’s demeanor toward his father very cold and detached.
The next time that Frank sees Sean again, it’s the day that Sean has been released from prison. Frank is now a widower, but the loss of his wife hasn’t brought this father and son closer together. In fact, when Frank shows up to give Sean a ride, Sean is so angry and dismissive toward Frank, that Sean tosses aside a sack of new clothes that Frank brought to him, by throwing the clothes in a nearby garbage can.
Sean also refuses to get in Frank’s car. But before Sean drives off with a police officer who gives him a ride, Frank tells Sean that it was Anna’s dying wish that Frank and Sean take a road trip together to spread her ashes out on a lake in Ireland. Andrea also has some property in Ireland that she left to Sean in her will, and Frank wants Sean to view the property in order to decide to keep it or sell it. However, Sean flat-out refuses to take the trip.
Frank and Anna seem like kind-hearted and compassionate people who tried to raise their son the right way. Why is Sean so ill-tempered and disrespectful to his father? That answer is revealed later in the film, when Sean and Frank are on their trip in Ireland.
Sean changed his mind about going on the trip because after getting out of prison, he found it difficult to find a job due to his prison record. However, through a prison-release program, Sean did get a job offer to start work at an electronics warehouse—but it’s in Oakland, California, and Sean needs financial help from his father to move there. And that’s why Sean reluctantly decided to go on the trip with Frank. But they’re under a time crunch, because Sean has to start this new job in five days, or else the job will be given to someone else.
When they arrive in Ireland, Frank and Sean go to a car rental place, where they’re attended to by a female clerk. And it isn’t long before their opposite personalities begin to clash. When they’re in the car, Frank chastises Sean for staring at the female clerk’s breasts while she was helping them. Frank tells Sean: “You should show respect to give respect. I should know—I’ve been in sales all of my life.”
This lecture sets off Sean, who’s been simmering with anger toward his father, to verbally lash out at Frank. Sean tells Frank that he shouldn’t talk about respect because Frank let himself be bullied by his own father, who was an abusive alcoholic. Sean lets Frank know that he doesn’t respect Frank for how Frank let his own father mistreat him and others.
It’s revealed later that there’s more to this story of why Sean is so resentful toward Frank: Frank’s father used Sean as a “human ashtray,” by putting lit cigarettes out his skin, when Sean was a child and alone with his paternal grandfather. Frank found out, and Sean is still very angry over how Frank handled everything. The details of Frank’s reaction to this child abuse are revealed further in the story.
Even without this child abuse in Sean’s background, it’s very clear how dissimilar Frank and Sean are to each other when it comes to dealing with life. Frank is very calm, non-confrontational and doesn’t like taking risks. Sean is quick-tempered, tends to pick fights and is a big risk-taker.
For example, when they’re eating together at a diner, they both order hamburgers, but Frank was served a hamburger that was different than what he ordered. Sean tells Frank to berate the server and demand to get the hamburger that he ordered, but Frank refuses, and instead removes some of the unwanted ingredients from the hamburger and eats it without a fuss.
To make matters even more tension-filled, Frank and Sean have to share a hotel room together (with separate beds), which isn’t an ideal situation, but it’s an indication that they’re on a limited budget. Meanwhile, Frank tells Sean something that Sean doesn’t really want to hear: While they’re in Ireland, they have to attend an Irish wake for Andrea.
The wake (which is held at the bar of the hotel where Frank and Sean are staying) is attended by her family members who could not go to the Andrea’s funeral in America. Sean feels out-of-place because it’s his first time in Ireland, and he doesn’t know anyone there besides his father. But at the bar counter, he notices a pretty blonde sitting by herself. They look at each other in a way that people do in movies where you know that these two are going to hook up later.
Meanwhile, a grieving Frank is surprised to find out at the wake that Andrea had an ex-boyfriend in Ireland whom she ran off with during a rebellious time in her life, before she met Frank. The ex-boyfriend’s name is Ronan Quinn, and Frank is told that Ronan’s family owns a horse-breeding farm. An old Polaroid photograph that Frank sees at the wake shows Ronan and Andrea on Ronan’s motorcycle.
This photograph, combined with the realization that he didn’t know as much about Andrea’s past as he thought he did, triggers Frank to find out more about Ronan. The movie veers into this subplot for a while, but it doesn’t lose focus from the real story, which is how this trip is going to affect Frank and Sean’s relationship.
After the wake, Frank and Sean go back to their hotel room where Frank is ready to go to sleep. But Sean is feeling restless and irritated, so he heads back to the hotel bar. The blonde who locked eyes with him earlier is still there by herself, so Sean goes up and introduces himself to her. She says her name is Jewel.
It isn’t long before Sean and Jewel have a somewhat flirtatious conversation. He tells her why he’s in Ireland, while she confesses that she’s just left a physically abusive boyfriend and she’s now homeless and trying to figure out what to do next. Therefore, it’s not much of a surprise that these troubled and lonely people end up making out in the back seat of Frank and Sean’s rental car.
But before things get too intense, a drunk Sean vomits outside the car, thereby ruining the sexy mood of the encounter. An embarrassed Sean tells Jewel that she can leave if she wants, but she decides to stay. They spend the night together in the car.
The next morning, Frank sees that Sean has spent the night in the back of the car with a woman who’s basically a stranger. Some awkward introductions are made, and Sean asks Frank (who’s the authorized driver for the car rental) if they can give Jewel a ride to where she need to go. Frank refuses because he doesn’t want to violate the car policy of picking up hitchhikers.
But when Frank has trouble starting the car, and Jewel (who says she knows cars because her father’s a mechanic) easily fixes the problem, it’s not a surprise that Frank relents, and Jewel is now along for the ride. The rest of the movie takes a few twists and turns (some more predictable than others) in showing how this decision affects the rest of their journey.
One of the best things about “End of Sentence” (which was written by Michael Armbruster) is that it avoids the pitfalls of many road-trip movies that overstuff the story with a lot of wacky characters and over-the-top situations. Everything that happens in “End of Sentence” is entirely believable, which makes the human emotions in the story even more poignant. The movie doesn’t feel overly scripted, because not every moment in the movie serves a big purpose the way that some movies cynically set up a scene purely for melodrama.
Hawkes and Lerman give commendable performances as this estranged father and son trying to find some of peace of mind while navigating the tensions of their relationship. Hawkes is a terrific character actor who doesn’t need a flashy role to show how talented he is. The way that he expresses the essence of Frank Fogle through his eyes and body language speak volumes more than what a lot of dialogue might convey. Lerman also skillfully handles the more complicated character of Sean, who might seem like a person who’s always angry at the world, but Sean’s relationship with Jewel reveals a vulnerable side to him that makes it clear that his anger masks deep-rooted insecurities.
And who is this mysterious Jewel? The movie shows more details about her and how her presence affects the relationship between Frank and Sean. There’s a scene in the movie where Jewel, Frank, and Sean are all seated at the same table at a restaurant/bar. Jewel comforts Frank, who’s feeling insecure about wondering that his late wife Anna’s relationship was like with her ex-boyfriend Ronan. Jewel tells Frank, “We might go on rides with rebels, but it’s the kind-hearted ones we spend our lives with.”
The look on Sean’s face and what happens afterward tell a lot about how Sean feels about himself compared to his father. It’s one of the reasons why “End of Sentence” is so good at revealing layers to the story, instead of throwing it all at viewers in an obvious way. The title of the film could refer to the end of Sean’s prison sentence, but it’s also clear that the real prison sentence in this story is holding on to anger and resentment that can poison a relationship with a loved one.
Gravitas Ventures released “End of Sentence” on digital and VOD on May 29, 2020.
Aloft Hotels will open a new location brand in in Dublin’s historic Liberties quarter in the spring of 2018. The deal is part of a franchise agreement with Blackpitts Hospitality Limited. Aloft Dublin City will be operated by Dublin-based Pembroke Hospitality Limited.
Aloft Dublin City will be eight stories tall and have 202 loft-like guest rooms with platform beds, walk-in showers and complimentary Bliss amenities. Guests can also expect the brand’s signature WXYZ bar, a public space where they can catch up on emails, read the papers, play a game of pool or grab a drink with friends, The hotel will also have Re:mixSM lounge.The WXYZ® bar and Re:mixSM lounge will be situated on the top floor of the hotel, making the most of the panoramic city views.
Aloft Dublin City will offer SPG Keyless that enables guests to use their smartphone or Apple watch as a room key. Other features will include a Re:chargeSM fitness centre; Re:fuelSM by Aloft, a convenient 24-hour deli option for those on the go; as well as two modern meeting spaces supported by an In-Touc’ business area. Fast and free Wi-Fi will be available throughout the property.
Two independently operated retail spaces will be located on the ground level with direct access from the street. There will also be on-site parking facilities for hotel guests and visitors.