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Review: Lakelands


- In their directorial debut, Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney follow a young football player who is lacking meaning in his life after being severely injured

Review: Lakelands
Éanna Hardwicke in Lakelands

World-premiered at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh (5-10 July), Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney’s drama Lakelands is the story of a young Gaelic football player, called Cian (played by Éanna Hardwicke, recently seen in Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium [+see also:
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interview: Lorcan Finnegan
film profile
and the TV series Normal People), who gets severely injured after a harsh fight at a local club. The man recovers quickly enough to stand up on his feet, but he finds out he won’t be able to be on the pitch again. The two directors set the story in Granard, County Longford, a small rural village of less than 1,000 souls up north Dublin.

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Lakelands is a work boasting some interesting qualities along with some visible flaws that prevent the movie from flourishing and standing out. In particular, two are the main issues affecting the two helmers’ directorial debut. The first is the excessively slow pace of the narration, which may work in some sequences but, overall, makes the whole piece too flat and contemplative. The second is the "impenetrable" soul of the lead. Even though in theory this unreadibility has the potential to make young Cian an interesting, unpredictable character, in practice, viewers may struggle to empathise with him and disengage quickly from his human odyssey. While working by subtraction is usually a good choice, we must not forget that it is also a double-edged sword, after all.

In this specific case, Lakelands tries to avoid many rhetorical trappings and in some parts reduce dialogues and reactions to the bare minimum (and that is worthwhile praising); on the other, it may gradually disengage the viewers with its frustrating reticence. The relationships Cian establishes also struggle to gain significant depth, with the exception of his friendship with Grace (Danielle Galligan), a nurse who has left Ireland and now lives in the UK. Their bond gives the picture some much-needed tenderness and, at least in part, attempts to break Cian's inscrutability.

It’s true, there are many young people who are literally obsessed with sport and their passion is their main reason to carry on. In fact, what Higgins and McGivney show in this film is generally credible. Coping with the type of trauma Cian experiences can bring one to act recklessly – in one scene, for example, Cian risks to engage in another fight before being rescued by a police officer. That being said, however, the cinematic representation of such a path is not always intriguing, as it is predominantly based on passiveness and resignation.

Technically speaking, the crew does a fair job; the cinematography by Simon Crowe delivers a convincing portrait of the tiny, provincial reality Cian is surrounded by; in addition, Allyn Quigley’s editing and Daithi’s score fit well with the style of this tale. The cast also deserves a positive mention – in particular, Hardwicke, Galligan and Lorcan Cranitch (who here plays Cian's estranged father) play difficult roles and are not backed by a solid script, but manage to show some spot-on acting.

Lakelands is an Irish production staged by Harp Media.

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