A couple of years ago, an Irish film panel at the IFI inevitably discussed why Irish audiences tend to avoid seeing Irish films at the cinema. It was suggested by some of panel that if Irish films wanted to be competitive perhaps the best way might be if they were in their native language. If they were in Irish they could compete with other foreign language films and not Hollywood (English-speaking) product. This is an interesting idea. We would also of course be able to submit films in the best foreign film category at the Oscars each year, thus hopefully raising their profile (great to see An Bronntanas get submitted this year). There is a reason for mentioning it in this review as well. Donal Foreman’s Out Of Here arrives in cinemas with a fine pedigree. Winner of the Jameson Dublin Film Festivals CineTALENT award at the festival earlier this year it seemed inevitable that it would get a release. It will be interesting to see if it will get the audience it deserves. One can’t help wondering if it came with subtitles would it be lauded more (though it has been critically praised) and more importantly if was made in a different country would Irish audiences be more receptive? Time will tell on the marketing and selling front, but in terms of quality Foreman has produced an outstanding film.
Out Of Here tells the story of Ciaran (a superb Fionn Walton), who has arrived home after spending quite a bit of time travelling. He meets up with old friends, meets a girl in a bar named Melissa (Aoife Duffin) and generally gads about. But it is clear that he left some things unfinished before he left. There is still an old girlfriend Jess (Anabell Rickerby) in his orbit and he can’t quite shake of the feeling that they should reconnect. His family are pleased to see him but are wondering what he will do with his life now. Things are not quite right. Ciaran is out of sync with everyone, with the possible exception of old friend Ronan (Dean Kavanagh) who sees the world in much the same way he does. Their scenes together are superb.
Out Of Here could easily (and lazily) be reduced down to a film that is about the resultant hangover of the collapse of the Celtic Tiger. Indeed there are some moments of commentary in the background (radio, people chatting etc.) that are a little too on the nose. But crucially they are built into the story in a very quiet way. Foreman is after much more than that. He seems to be asking: what is left for people who graduate with hopes, dreams and ambitions in a country that seems to have abandoned them? How will they survive and prosper in a country they barely recognise? In Ciaran we see one way out. And we have seen it with our own eyes as the guts of a generation have left to be swallowed up by grateful countries around the world. There is a scene during the film where Ciaran is given a chance to explain what he has been up to while he has been away. Not to give too much away but the scene is terrific and could easily stand on its own as a short. It finishes with a heart breaking lament that is one of the key lines in the film.
Foreman’s film has a confidence that is rarely seen in a first feature. There are some beautiful uses of both overlapping dialogue and contemplative silence. In one scene we follow a journey on foot that crosses the city and continues wordless for minutes. It is so well put together and beautifully paced. Foreman is after a certain mood and succeeds spectacularly. At the beginning we see Ciaran coming from Dublin airport and getting the bus into the city. It is grey and raining and Foreman uses the visual sludge of the camera trying to see through the gloom to capture the internal feeling. The grey is contrasted with the voice of the Dublin bus voice over man cheerfully telling tourists about lovely Dublin. Foreman also underlines Ciaran’s mind set at home in his parent’s house. In pretty much every scene he is framed in a doorway or between walls that seem to narrow before our eyes. Make no mistake: at the beginning of this film Ciaran seems trapped, physically and mentally. And yet transport runs throughout this film as a means of hope and escape. Buses, bicycles, Luas, planes and indeed walking all feature heavily.
Out Of Here seems to share some filmic DNA with one of the better films of the last few years: Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st. In that Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie) spends that film revisiting friends in Oslo that he doesn’t quite fit in with anymore. The main characters in each film have differing reasons and are different ages but there is that sense that this kind of ennui can strike at any age, that the need to do something, anything to escape your life is always there. The fact that Out Of Here compares very well with Oslo, August 31st is testament to a brilliant job by Foreman. Out Of Here is a gem of a film and one that will stand up to repeat viewings. Go see it and remind yourself that Ireland can still offer up top quality cinema on par with the rest of the world, subtitles or no subtitles.