Foscadh (Shelter) – Film Review
by Frank L
Director – Sean Breathnach
Writers – Sean Breathnach, Donal Ryan(novel “The Thing about December”)
Stars – Dónall Ó Héalai, Fionnuala Flaherty, Cillian O’Gairbhi
Adapted from the novel by Donal Ryan “The Thing about December”, this film tells the story of a young man John Cunliffe (Dónall Ó Héalai) who has been protected from the world by his parents. As the title would suggest, It is in Irish with English surtitles. The film begins with him returning from some every day chore to the remote family farm to find his widowed mother dead on the floor. He is adrift. His awkwardness and lack of social skills are all too apparent as he stands with his aunt and other distant relatives as neighbours pay their respects. It is too much for him and he retreats to the privacy of the lavatory for a wank! But his mother’s death has changed his status whether he likes it or not. He is now a property owner of some substance in a remote and beautiful landscape. He is alone and vulnerable.
Into the void arrive some charmless individuals. His land inevitably attracts the local entrepreneur who has notions for a wind-farm and tries to put pressure on John to do a deal. Out of nowhere he has attracted the hatred of the local thug who attacks him so that he has to go to hospital. There he meets Dave (Cillian O’Gairbhi) who looks as if he might at a stretch be a friend with whom he can connect to the world and Siobhan (Fionnuala O’Flaherty) a nurse who tries to understand him. However, the beer- swilling, boastful, unpleasant Dave has a head start and Siobhan in consequence has not only to handle John’s social inadequacies but also his unsavoury friendship with Dave.
John’s drab clothing and pudding bowl hair cut sets him apart from his contemporaries. He looks like a misfit but why is difficult to discern. Perhaps this is the challenge that fascinates Siobhan. As a character she reveals little of what makes her tick.
Set in the windswept beauty of Connemara the landscape is glorious and it stands in stark contrast to the daily seediness of John’s life. O’Gairbhi has a challenging and complex role. He portrays this distant young man to good effect even if John is an enigma. Breathnach with his shots of swirling mists underline this difficult to define young man.
The film describes a loneliness which is intense. It is accentuated by a haunting score by Icelandic composer Sindri Mar Sigfusson. It is a story that explores a complex young man who struggles to fit into the modern world.