Irish cinema has a very rich history of storytelling (as we are well known for anyway). And in this decade alone we have been blessed with some brilliant pieces of work be they tragic or heart-warming. The industry has proven time and again that we have some real talent to showcase here and this decade has proven that to be true. Cardboard Gangsters (2017) is released this week and so far to many glowing reviews. So I thought I would run down my favourite films of the decade that have surprised me and given me hope that we have much more incredible films to come. Starting with…
10. Gold (2014)
Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) stars in this upbeat drama about a young girl with prospects for the future whose families lives are turned upside down with the return of her mentally ill father (David Wilmot)…who returns to the delight of no one and proceeds to mess up everything. With a great cast including James Nesbitt, I really enjoyed this one. It goes into some very dark territories as most Irish films tend to, but it was still a much more feel good film than I had anticipated.
9. Parked (2011)
I know of several people who didn’t find this film to their liking but I disagree. Colm Meaney plays a homeless man living out of his car who befriends a young man (Colin Morgan) in the same situation. But as they grow closer he realises that some things are not what they seem with his cannabis addiction. I love Colm Meaney as he has always played a loud mouth with hilarious results, but it was refreshing to see him in something much more restrained and darker than we have encountered with him before. Which is always a good sign in my books.
8. What Richard Did (2012)
As a fan of Lenny Abrahamson’s previous work, this one kind of struck a nerve with me. Upon first viewing I didn’t really care for it too much. But the more I watched it the more I actually started to appreciate the little things about it. Based around the death of a young man in south Dublin many years ago, the subject matter alone for the film is quite dark. And Jack Reynor, admittedly not my favourite actor, actually did a fine job here. Quite depressing some may find but a great piece of work still.
7. Grabbers (2012)
I love this film way more than I should. To perpetuate the Irish stereotype of our love of drinking, and blend it into a weird Sci-Fi comedy in which alcohol is poisonous to these man eating alien tentacles, is just brilliant. The gags are plentiful, the cast are hilarious, and my tip of the hat to the CGI. Normally I usually hate it, but the effects were so good I was actually blown away, for a film set on a small island off the Irish coast. A completely stupid idea for some, but for a Saturday night in watching TV, this is my cup of tea.
6. Sing Street (2016)
To get this out of the way, I really should not have enjoyed this film. Seeing that I hate musicals, and a lot of 80’s pop songs are pretty rubbish, and the film has more cheese than I could handle BUT I just sat there thinking “Why do I like this?” There is an undeniable charm that runs the whole way through. The guy who tries to win the girl, the challenges that face him at home and at school, it’s something that many of us can relate to, and I was completely sucked in by it. I feel almost ashamed to admit it, but I actually loved it in a lot of ways even for a lot of its stupidity and cheese.
5. ’71 (2014)
I know a lot of people consider this a British film, but seeing as it is set in Northern Ireland and is filled with a cast of many Irish actors, I would like to include it on this list (also because it is fantastic). The film stars the brilliant Jack O’Connell as a British soldier deployed to Belfast at the height of the troubles, only to lose his team and remain stranded in dangerous territory. O’Connell proved to me in this year that he is one of my favourite actors working right now. Alongside Starred Up (2014), he has come a long way from an annoying character on Skins, and proved that he can be up there with the best of them. This one is intense, and a truly entertaining thriller for any fans of the genre.
4. The Guard (2011)
I’ve talked about The Guard many times before so I’ll try keep it short. We all know the story, Brendan Gleeson plays a lazy cop in the west of Ireland who teams up with FBI man Don Cheadle to take down some drug smugglers. Still makes me laugh out loud every time I see it, and the chemistry between Gleeson and Cheadle should really not work, and yet somehow they just make it work. If you haven’t seen it yet you are doing yourself a great disservice.
3. Frank (2014)
Michael Fassbender is without a doubt my favourite actor in the world right now. So when I saw the trailer to this I thought it looked ridiculous. But somehow he just made it work so well. Alongside Domhnall Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the film itself feels like it was just invented for hipsters. But the more you hear the wacky music, Domhnall’s determination to join the band, and Gyllenhaal’s feisty (and downright scary) band member, something about it just brought me so much joy. And it is a film I would happily watch again and again brought to us by the brilliant and again mentioned Lenny Abrahamson.
2. Good Vibrations (2013)
I first saw the cover to this film having not knowing anything about it. And after I brought it home – I watched it three or four times that same week. It follows the story of Terri Hooley, who during the 1970s opens up a record store in Northern Ireland, and develops the Belfast punk scene with bands like the Undertones and the Outcasts. It was one of those films that was so feel good that, like a junky throughout that week, I just needed another fix of it. Not being a huge punk rock fan myself, the music completely won me over, it was brimming with charm, and the lead performance of Terri played by Richard Dormer is some of the finest acting I have seen in quite some time. I really could not recommend it any more.
1. The Young Offenders (2016)
Like many people I have only seen this film recently, and without a doubt, it has easily become my favourite Irish film of the decade. The story follows two young men (Alex Murphy & Chris Walley) in Cork in 2007, whom upon hearing that a large shipment of cocaine is washing up in the coast not too far from them, they decide to go down and make some money. Not realising that their own stupidity may get in their way. When I put this on, and while watching it, I realised that I have not laughed so much in such a long time. Everyone I have come into contact with on every other film on today’s list had one opinion or another. But they were all unanimous in agreement that this is one of the best Irish films to come out in a long time. It has pure heart, pure charm, and is just purely hilarious to boot. You really couldn’t ask for more. I would recommend anyone that is reading this to go out and see it for yourself. Because I can promise you one thing, you will not be disappointed.