North Circular – Film Review
by Frank L.
Director/ Writer – Luke McManus
Stars – Gemma Dunleavy, Johnny Flynn, Ian Lynch
The consequences of the lockdown as a result of the Covid virus will be with us for many a day. Amongst the restrictions of the early lockdowns was the requirement that individuals remained within 5 kilometres of their home. This domestic incarceration provided a driving force for McManus to direct a film about his vicinity namely the North Circular Road and the inhabitants of its immediate surroundings. The sub-title is “a musical trip”. However, the trip taken along the North Circular by McManus starting in the Phoenix Park is much more than a musical trip, it is also an insight into the challenges of various individuals who live close to it as it proceeds to the Five Lamps and then changes its name as it approaches the river.
McManus surprises at the beginning with views of the pastoral charms of the Phoenix Park with its rolling acres, the calmly grazing herd of deer and the austere presence of the imperious Wellington Monument. These are not the images which spring to mind when you contemplate the North Circular. But it is good to be reminded this is where the North Circular begins. It is also where the music begins with a piper. This is yet another revelation. He then contemplates the road itself before delving into its various communities including a resident of the recently knocked O’Devaney Gardens, the varied collection of diverse musicians who congregate in the Cobblestone to have a session and a panhandler who adds his individual charm to the eclectic mix. The sense of community is heightened by the outrage felt generally when the very existence of the Cobblestone is threatened by a proposal to destroy it to make way for yet another non-descript hotel for tourists. The interviews with residents include people who at times may have been in the area against their will as Grangegorman and Mountjoy Jail are part of the mix. The Magdalene Laundry also lurks. On a more upbeat note, the ability to enjoy the good times is captured when the community come out onto the street with sparkling pride and irrepressible joy to welcome back home Kellie Harrington after her victory in the Olympic Games. The intensity of the delight on people’s faces is a tonic.
There is a mixture of interviews and voiceovers from a wide range of individuals who are residents. There is an impressive sequence where the importance of established housing is recognised even if it is not loved as it should be by its owners. A young squatter shows how a vacant house can, with energy and enthusiasm, make an admirable home when it is occupied and loved by someone who cares about it.
There are not many positive stories that can be said to have emanated from the pandemic but this film is certainly one. To see McManus’s passionate take on his local area is to have your eyes opened to a complex set of lives who thrive in this long-established quintessentially urban part of Dublin, notwithstanding the pastoral charms of Phoenix Park. Enjoy and thank Covid for the film’s creation. Every cloud has a silver lining.
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