Close encounters of a most charming kind
SUMMER OF THE FLYING SAUCER Directed by Martin Duffy. Starring Robert Sheehan, Dan Colley, Joanne Kernan, Lorcan Cranitch, Hugh O’Conor, John Keogh, Lalor Roddy, Jens Winter, Patrick Bergin
PG cert, lim release, 89 min IRISH film editor Martin Duffy turned to directing in 1996 with The Boy from Mercury, an appealing tale set in early 1960s Dublin as a young boy’s fantasies are fuelled by the Flash Gordon serials he sees in the cinema.
Duffy returns to that era for his fourth feature, Summer of the Flying Saucer, which takes place in rural Mayo in 1967, when Danny (Robert Sheehan), a boarding school student, returns home to the backwater that is Knocksheen for the summer holidays.
Danny shocks his farmer father (Lorcan Cranitch) and the conservative villagers with his new, mildly hippie appearance. This was a time when the area was so far behind the times that none of the locals owned a TV set, and the only radio was in the village pub. Or so the movie’s Swedish screenwriter, Marteinn Thorisson, would have us believe.
Not only that, but Danny just happens to discover two aliens in his back garden. Their spacecraft has had an accident. Conveniently, they have a little green orb that translates their speech into English.
Befriending them and needing to explain their presence to the inquisitive, suspicious locals, Danny says they are Polish and introduces them as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
The scene is set for conflict between prejudice and fear in the village and the values of peace, love and understanding represented by Danny and the aliens. The movie is pointlessly saddled with a presentday preface to set Patrick Bergin’s superfluous narration of the story in motion.
That said, this is a light, amiable and diverting coming-of-age fantasy, attractively photographed by Seamus Deasy and centred on a winning performance from rising Irish actor Sheehan as Danny.
The cast, which remains admirably deadpan throughout, includes John Keogh as a paranoid publican and Hugh O’Conor as a guitar-playing, would-be trendy priest, who understandably laments his posting as he sings, “Knocksheen, Knocksheen/Oh Lord, why me?”