A Midland’s Adventure – ★★★
You’re Ugly Too is the debut feature from the director/writer Mark Noonan which recently won the hotly contested Best First Irish Feature at the Galway Film Fleadh.
The film tells the story of a girl in foster care (Lauren Kinsella), who is put under the temporary guardianship of her uncle (Aidan Gillen) who is securing an early release from prison to look after her on a trial basis. As the story progresses we find out a little more about the circumstances of how Stacey became an orphan and what led to Will’s time on the inside. Will takes Stacey to live in an old family caravan in Ireland’s midlands (kudos to “Film Offaly”) where they encounter another unusual modern Irish family unit living there – a Belgian married to a Romanian – and strike up an unorthodox bond as she begins to tutor Stacey and he offers Will some bin-man hours.
Stacey has narcolepsy issues and is prescribed Adderall to stay awake. Will’s “demons” aren’t explored fully, but he became an addict at some point and when not looking after Stacey, finds himself slipping into old habits by getting hammered and stealing her pills for a quick buzz. The central question throughout the film is whether this ramshackle unit will be adjudged by the authorities to be the best care setup for Stacey, or whether Will has to go back to complete his sentence and she return to another foster family.
All in all, it’s a very decent, assured debut effort from Noonan as he realises that his main asset is the interplay between Gillen and Kinsella, with him crafting a script that allows them to push the banter meter to 11. There’s a very natural energy between the two and it’s the most human and real we’ve seen Gillen in a long time, following his honourable but pantomime-esque attempts at Charlie Haughey and Game of Thrones’ Petyr Baelish. It’s time to acknowledge him as the wonderfully weird and unusual screen presence he can be – truth be told we wouldn’t have him any other way. Never change Aidan.
Stylistically Offaly looks gorgeous. Unfortunately the film’s colour grading team have spent a little too much time on the Instagram Nashville filter setting and have lent it all an, at times, unreal sepia tone. You can tell the landscape and locations are beautiful and it probably didn’t need half as much treatment in post production. It’s a minor quibble though with credit due to the cinematographer Tom Comerford who shot it.
This is a strong, observational drama that gives times and space to the character dynamics which feel very real. Lets hope the festival wins will help it do some business here at home where it seems audiences need the stakes to be higher for our Irish dramas to be successful.
Released across Ireland on July 24th 2015