After two weeks of intense campaigning and over 8,000 votes being cast, we are finally ready to announce the results of the Scannain Readers’ Favourite Irish Film of 2016. 28 incredibly diverse films, ranging from comedy to period drama to international documentaries, and even the story of a mattress salesman, competed, showcasing the brilliant year that was 2016 (for Irish film at least).
Here is the top 10 in reverse order:
#10 – Strange Occurrences in a Small Irish Village (3.9%)
Aoife Kelleher’s engaging documentary tells the story of the village of Knock, its Marian Shrine, and the nature of faith in modern Ireland, through the perspectives of those people who live there. From hard-working and forward-thinking parish priest Father Richard, through surviving descendents of the witnesses to the apparition of the Virgin Mary, and even into the Knock Marriage Bureau, Kelleher weaves a distinctive narrative that has something for the faithful and sceptics alike.
#9 – South (4.8%)
Independent feature South tells the story of Tom, a young man struggling with the recent death of his father. After finding a note from his estranged mother he decides to hit the road and try to find her. Director Gerard Walsh’s sophomore feature is a delicate and well-crafted study of loss, hope, and redemption. Walsh’s debut A Day Like Today marked him out as one to watch, and South enforces the belief that this is a director with a fine future ahead of him.
#8 – Viva (5.3%)
A Cuban-set, Spanish-language feature may seem like an odd sort of Irish film, but this fusion of Caribbean and Celtic has resulted in one of the finest, funniest, and most heart-warming films of 2016. Directed by Paddy Breathnach, Viva is the Havana-based story of young Jesus, who longs to be a glamorous drag queen only to have his dreams take a detour when his estranged and very macho father returns from a long stint in prison. What Breathnach, writer Mark O’Halloran, and DoP Cathal Watters craft is a universal tale that touches the soul.
#7 – Mattress Men (5.5%)
On paper the story of two men struggling to turn a bedding salesman into an internet viral sensation should not work. On the big screen however, this tender tale of hard-work and determination is cinematic food-for-the-soul. In Michael ‘Mattress Mick’ Flynn and Paul Kelly, director Colm Quinn has found 2016’s unlikeliest heroes and the year’s most dynamic screen duo. It’s also the truest story of Dublin that we’ve seen in many years.
#6 – Love & Friendship (5.6%)
US director Whit Stillman teams up with Irish production company Blinder Films to bring to life Jane Austen’s early novella Lady Susan. The result of this collaboration is the funniest Jane Austen adaptation ever, and a beautifully crafted, and superbly acted, tale of ruthlessness and ambition. The film is notable for being Kate Beckinsale’s finest on-screen performance, but it is memorable for Tom Bennett’s scene-stealing portrayal of the oafish cad Sir James Martin. The Irish locations look impeccable, and the costume design from Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh is a thing of wonder.
#5 – Crash and Burn (6.3%)
Racing-car driver Tommy Byrne was an outrageous talent and a reckless one. This documentary from award-winning director Seán Ó Cualáin charts his meteoric rise and even-more spectacular fall, as for the briefest moment this gregarious Irishman was the best driver in the world. Through archiver footage, animated sequences, and interviews with contemporaries and the man himself Crash & Burn is a compelling story of talent and hubris.
#4 – Sing Street (6.3%)
Once director John Carney returns home for a semi-autobiographical tale set in 1980’s Dublin. Sing Street is joyous ride of a film, which features toe-tapping tunes and excellent performances from a bunch of new and emerging actors. The film also manages to have thematic depth as it deals with issues of financial struggles, parental separation, and domestic abuse. Despite dealing with these issues the audience emerges from watching the film with a warm feeling, and quite probably grinning from ear-to-ear. Drive it like you stole it…
#3 – The Young Offenders (7.3%)
Two juvenile idiots hatch a plan to ride almost 100 miles in order to steal a bundle of cocaine and set themselves up for life. From this simple sketch is drawn one of the funniest Irish films in a decade, and two of the most loveable screen-creations in twice as long. The key to the success of Peter Foott’s low-budget comedic tale is the pairing of Alex Murphy and Chris Walley. This two loveable scamps are charm personified, and they have an energy and synergy as if they have been partnered for life. Pure daycent boy!
#2 – A Date for Mad Mary (8.8%)
Darren Thornton’s feature debut is a simple and wonderful film, that cuts to the heart of the small-town experience, the fragility of life-long relationships in the face of growing up, and the problems of readjusting or settling back into your old way of life after being away. All of these speak to an audience, and in the guise of lead Seana Kerslake are given a channel through what is the single finest Irish screen performance of the year. Her Mary is violent yet vulnerable, abrasive yet funny, and utterly captivating.
#1 – Atlantic (12.3%)
Having recently aired on RTÉ television, and then trended on Twitter for over 24 hours, Risteard O Domhnaill’s expertly made documentary has struck a chord with the Irish populace as it took the top spot of the Scannain Readers’ Favourite Irish Film of 2016, with almost 1000 votes. Atlantic follows the fortunes of three small fishing communities in Norway, Newfoundland and Arranmore as they struggle to maintain their way of life in the face of mounting economic and ecological challenges, and looks at the threat posed to the ocean’s ecosystem and fishing communities by oil exploration and overfishing. Narrated by Brendan Gleeson, this is an incredible story of resource mismanagement, and a timely one.