Last time we did movie recs, we covered some of the best children’s movies set in Ireland (check that out here!), but kids aren’t the only ones who can get the mid-winter blues. This time, we’re here with recommendations for our SRL parents (and some of our older dancers, at your discretion.) So tuck your littlest dancers in, make some hot cocoa, stop worrying about being possibly snowed in tomorrow morning, and dive into one of these beloved films that will whisk you away to Ireland and make you laugh, or cry…or both!
1. Once (2007, R)
97% Rotten Tomatoes
Rent on Amazon Prime
Set in Dublin, Once follows an Irish vacuum repairman and hopeful musician (known only as “Guy”) and a Czech immigrant flower-seller (known only as “Girl”) in the journey of their burgeoning love and attempts to follow their shared dreams. This stripped-down musical (all about the music with none of the fanfare and dance numbers) begins when Girl reaches out to Guy to let him know that she’s also an aspiring singer-songwriter and a partnership is born. When that partnership deepens into something more, something beautiful happens—and we’re not just talking about the Oscar-winning original song “Falling Slowly.” But the movie is hardly a romantic comedy, as the course of true love never did run smooth, so get ready for something more soul aching and bittersweet than saccharine. Eventually adapted for the stage where it became a Broadway hit, Once is a simple story, but one that will charm the coldest heart this winter.
2. The Guard (2011, R)
94% Rotten Tomatoes
Rent on Amazon Prime
The Guard is a kind of buddy cop/crime film, but just remember that Irish humor tends to skew a little dark. Beloved Irish actor Brendan Gleeson (we could spend a whole blog post listing his accolades, but let’s just mention that he was Professor Moody in Harry Potter) stars as Garda (that’s Irish for police) Officer Boyle who’s a little bit…much. Crass and eccentric Boyle is knee-deep in an investigation when he stumbles onto a much bigger crime ring, causing a straitlaced FBI agent (played by Don Cheadle) to get involved. Set in Connemara in western Ireland, the story follows the unorthodox pairing as they try to track down the criminals, with a healthy dose of both hilarity and tragedy in equal measure. The film was warmly received critically and at the box office (actually becoming the highest grossing independent Irish film to date,) with Gleeson even being nominated for a Golden Globe for his role.
3. Sing Street (2016, PG-13)
95% Rotten Tomatoes
Watch on Amazon Prime
When you consider Ireland’s long history of musicality, it’s not surprising that there’s two musicals on this list. Sing Street is set in 1980s south inner-city Dublin and based on writer and director John Carney’s experiences as a teenager (he even attended Synge Street CBS, the school the plot revolves around.) The film follows Conor Lawlor as he’s transferred to this new school due to issues at home and starts a band with his new friends in order to impress his crush. As you’d expect from any teenage tale, this venture is tumultuous, but ultimately gives way to a story of found family, the power of love, the restorative nature of creativity, and dreams of escaping your small town. While the adult actors are an all-star cast, Carney chose to cast all unknowns for the younger roles to keep the narrative as relatable as possible. Full of slightly fantastical elements paired with realistic 80s nostalgia, Sing Street has a levity to it, even as it tackles difficult issues (with a song or two thrown in!)
4. Waking Ned Devine (1998, PG)
84% Rotten Tomatoes
Rent on Amazon Prime
Touted as an “Irish Weekend at Bernie’s,” Waking Ned Devine is a film that finds humor even in the darkest topics. Set in the tiny village of Tullymore (population: 52) where everyone knows everyone’s business, senior friends Jackie and Michael are gob smacked when they find out someone in town has won the lottery! A ham-fisted investigation of sorts ensues that reveals that local recluse, Ned Devine, is not only the winner—but promptly died of the shock. But Ned has no family and he’d want to share his winnings with the whole village…right? What follows is a romp of high-spirited hijinks perpetrated by the entire, mostly elderly population in order to trick the claims inspector—fully of the silly and macabre in equal measure. A film full of heart and community as much as jokes, Waking Ned Devine was considered a delight by most reviewers, an updated comedy of manners with a bit of bawdiness for fun. (Oh, and it was also nominated for and won a ton of awards!)
5. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006, Not Rated)
90% Rotten Tomatoes
Rent on Amazon Prime
The highest grossing independently made Irish film in history before surpassed by The Guard and widely considered one of the most important Irish films of all time, The Wind That Shakes the Barley is the historical pick on this list. Set in County Cork during the Irish War for Independence (1919-1921) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923,) the film follows brothers Damien (portrayed by Cillian Murphy of Peaky Blinders fame) and Teddy as they fight a guerrilla war against the British. This film tackles one of the most difficult times in Irish history through an interpersonal story that grounds it for the viewer, with nods to Ireland’s troubled history (the title comes from a Robert Dwyer Joyce song of the same name, set during the 1798 rebellion.) It may not be rated, but definitely expect some heavy topics and violence due to the subject matter, but not necessarily gratuitously so--it did win the coveted Palme D’Or at Cannes.
Happy (or not so happy…) viewing!
This post is part of a series. Read our last Modern Ireland post, all about University College Dublin, here. Check out the blog every Monday and Thursday for more posts about Irish history, dance culture, community news, and spotlights on our dancers, staff, and families—among other fun projects! And don’t forget to dance along with us on both Facebook and Instagram.
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