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BERLIN 2015 Generation

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You're Ugly Too: A subtly handled emotional story


- BERLIN 2015: Irish director Mark Noonan's first feature film deals with loss, love and hope

You're Ugly Too: A subtly handled emotional story
Lauren Kinsella and Aidan Gillen in You're Ugly Too

Irish writer-director Mark Noonan's first feature film, You're Ugly Too [+see also:
film focus
interview: Mark Noonan
film profile
, world-premiered in the Berlinale's Generation Kplus section. The film tackles a strongly emotional subject matter with restraint and subtlety, juxtaposing the positive and negative emotions, and the virtues and shortcomings, of its convincing characters, with the setting in the Irish Midlands lending it a completely adequate visual backdrop. 

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Six weeks after her mother passed away, and with her father having died a couple of years previously, 11-year-old Stacey (Lauren Kinsella) will have to face spending her teenage years in foster homes – that is, unless her uncle Will (Aidan Gillen, known from Game of Thrones) is not released early from prison on compassionate leave, so that he can take care of her.

Moving away from Dublin, the two find a home in Stacey’s mother’s caravan in a trailer park in the Irish Midlands. As they struggle to understand each other and form a relationship as close to family as they can – with Will trying hard to be a proper surrogate father, and Stacey rebelling in a typical pre-adolescent way – she develops narcolepsy, probably as a result of her recent loss. The liability issues connected to the illness prevent her from being admitted to the local school.

Will, on the other hand, has trouble coping with this new life and gets perilously close to missing his daily calls to his probation officer on several occasions. Some help is forthcoming from their neighbours, a Belgian-Romanian couple, Emilie (Erika Sainte, from The Connection [+see also:
film profile
) and Tibor (George Pistereanu, from If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle [+see also:
film review
interview: Ada Condeescu
film profile
), who have a son a little younger than Stacey.

Of course, the relationship between uncle and niece is central to the film. They talk and argue a lot, but it feels like there is more happening in what they are not saying or doing than in what they do. Noonan approaches the whole film in this fashion – letting eyes and gestures speak on one hand, and on the other, combining the interpersonal relations with the beautiful landscapes littered with decrepit houses and ugly trailers, and with a rusty railway cutting through it. Credit for the successfully employed visual style goes to DoP Tom Comerford (Love Eternal [+see also:
film review
festival scope
film profile

At only 81 minutes long, the film does suffer from an all-too-frequent use of music montages, but David Geraghty's guitar-driven score is itself unobtrusive and nicely adds to the overall tone. This atmosphere subtly combines hope and despair, love and misunderstanding, and many other contrasts in You're Ugly Too. The title of the film also very aptly sums up its sense of humour. 

The whole cast does a good job, and it is, of course, the wildly talented Kinsella who steals the show.

You're Ugly Too was produced by Ireland's Savage Productions, and Berlin-based Picture Tree handles the international rights. 

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