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Ireland at the Oscars: Winner or Not, Here's Why You Should See These Films

, | March 16, 2023 | By

The 95th Academy Awards ceremony could have been an Irish moment -- but it wasn't ... not entirely, anyway.

Our producer-at-large Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., offers his thoughts on three films that were in contention (and one that wasn't) and still deserve to be seen ... Ed.

Apart from the 2007 Oscars, which witnessed three films from Mexican directors (Pan’s Labyrinth, Babel, Children of Men), I can’t remember a recent time when a foreign country made a bigger splash at the Oscars.

Ireland had three films in Oscar contention, an improvement from when Northern Ireland-born Kenneth Branagh's Belfast won original screenplay last year.

Only one took home a top prize, but all are worth seeing,

An Irish Goodbye

WINNER: Short Film (Live Action)

One brother (Seamus O’Hara, playing Turlough) returns home from London to bury his mum and sell the family property in rural Northern Ireland.

Opposing him is his brother, Lorcan (James Martin, an actor with Down Syndrome), who would rather they hold onto the estate and maintain it together.

The two reluctantly set out to complete a bucket list presented by the parish priest, Father O’Shea, that their mother wrote before her death.

As the ceremony happened on Martin's birthday, the whole audience sang "Happy Birthday" to him.

Right now, the film can only be seen with the BBC iPlayer in the U.K., but the Oscar win may get it picked up by a streamer in the U.S.

The Quiet Girl (partly in Irish with English subtitles)

NOMINEE: International Feature Film (Ireland)

Claire Keegan’s acclaimed novel Foster receives the big-screen treatment. Director Colm Bairéad retains the experimental quality of the short novel in two ways.

First, there’s not much in terms of a conventional plot: a young girl (Catherine Clinch) spends the summer with distant relatives, granting her some respite from a crowded and poverty-stricken home life.

Secondly, similar to the 2015 Oscar-nominated Brooklyn film about Irish immigration to America, there’s no clear antagonist.

There is an Irish wake, however. This scene of mourning proves the most impactful in the narrative’s loose structure.

In perhaps the strongest category in the Oscar field, this artistically structured foreign film stood out from the Hollywood formula the best.

Alas, it wound up losing out to Germany's All Quiet on the Western Front, the most recent of four adaptations of Erich Maria Remarque's acclaimed 1929 novel of the same name.

The Quiet Girl is available to be streamed on Vudu.


The Banshees of Inisherin

A parish family recently asked me what my favorite type of genre film was. I responded with the Zen-like answer: “the non-genre film is my favorite genre.”

I suppose “drama,” if I had to put a name to it. It comes down to acting and story for me.

Banshees accomplishes both. The Irish-British co-production The Banshees of Inisherin slowly unfurls the parable of one man (Brendan Gleeson) abruptly ending his relationship with his former best friend (Colin Farrell).

Like An Irish Goodbye, a priest (David Pearse) mediates between the two, with Gleeson’s character depicted in the confessional in a couple of scenes.

The Oscar wound up going to Everything Everywhere All at Once, which dominated the awards. But Banshees did take the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture, and the BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film.

The Banshees of Inisherin can be streamed on Amazon, HBO Max and Hulu.


And The Wonder: An Irish story that could have been a contender, but ...

Based on true stories of Victorian-Era Irish girls who miraculously went years without food (or in some cases surviving solely on the Eucharist and water).

The historical stories, akin to any supernatural tale, remain shrouded in mystery: historians never discovered the impetus for the fasts nor a medical explanation of how they were sustained for so long.

The movie, despite its title, doesn’t cope well with wonder or mystery and instead offers up an ahistorical, scientific explanation for the fasts, which is unsympathetic to those of faith.

For all complaints of Hollywood being adverse to Catholic themes, I found this year’s crop of Irish films to belie that claim.

The previous three films show formalized faith as integral to the Irish experience. All three contended for Oscar gold.

In contrast, this film, directed by Sebastián Lelio, that didn’t consider Catholic faith seriously enough, was left wondering what could have been.

The Wonder is on Netflix.


Image: Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in the film THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. Photo by Jonathan Hession. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved

Click here to visit USC-film-school graduate Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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