Lyra – Film Review

Lyra – Film Review
by Brian Merriman

Directed by Alison Millar
Music by David Holmes,
Cinematographer Mark McCauley
Edited by Chloe Lambourne

Presented by Channel 4 with an association with TG4

The Irish have a very different response to death. We never speak ill of the dead, despite any thwarting of their opportunity, we may have contributed to in life. It is a comfort I suppose and a self-forgiveness to the survivor. Imagine how good life could be, if we acknowledged in life, what we easily do after death, but we do things differently in Ireland. Lyra McKee’s moving documentary is emotional, full of political purpose and revealing. Her enquiring mind, growing up as an expectant ‘ceasefire baby’ only to succumb to a ‘new’ IRA bullet.

The powerful, loving women featured in this insightful documentary don’t burst into ‘Up the Ra’ in celebration – they know what living in these times means. This film is an important discourse as memory fades and history is revised. Lyra’s lived experience is in the now. It is not sectarian but socially structural. She gives a voice not only to the voiceless but to those no longer heard by the revisionist noise of social media manipulation. Hers is an important voice.

McKee was curious. Curious about her generation, post Troubles, still marginalised through the enduring class differences, that still deprives districts in Northern Ireland. There seems to have been little ‘levelling-up’ post the Good Friday Agreement.

Her work on suicide, her search for ‘The Lost Boys’ and the ongoing quest for justice in her name, is an indictment of modern media, who no longer have the space for investigative journalism.

How this fresh talent actually earned a living as a ‘freelancer’ is unclear. She did not enjoy the status or protection of any media power.

There is some wonderful footage of a joyful family life, her growing recognition as a freelance journalist, her moving TED talk about young lgbt+ people, her quest for truth, and her interest in the Ballymurphy murders…

This documentary is more than Lyra the person, who shines through, it is a contemporary update of post Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland. It is different from the rhetoric now used to replace reality. She notes paramilitaries these days ‘kill in their own communities’ rather than shoot the ‘enemy’.

The never-ending political stalemate of veto in Stormont is another challenging backdrop to this emotive documentary. It reminds us of how we comfort ourselves by not speaking to our political foes, but yet sit beside them at a funeral in a church – Lyra’s funeral. A church which would bury her and sympathise with Sara her partner…but who would refuse to have married them. Another example of how we comfort ourselves for our failings, after the fact.

Lyra was a proud lesbian and role model. Her insights are illuminating for modern young lgbt+ people. I did note that there is no footage of Sara and her family together.

Her courageous family have all the hallmarks of the many brave Northern women who led the struggle for justice in this conflict. They are articulate, brave and honourable.

Born and bred in a Republican area, Lyra was killed by an ‘IRA’ bullet. Others born into that ‘culture’ are seen smirking in denial, as the first of her alleged perpetrators are arraigned in Court. It hasn’t gone away.

Next time you hear ‘Up the Ra’ (and its ilk) being sung…think of this important documentary again…it explains so much. It is Lyra’s truth and she lived in this time and knew exactly what it really meant.


Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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