Dirty old town
It’s St Patrick’s Day as experienced by three Dublin lowlifes in this impressively gritty, bang-on crime drama, writes Tara Brady
JUST WHEN we thought we were all capered out, along comes Mark O’Connor’s rough-hewn, energetic urban thriller to woo us back into the picture house.
Set against Dublin’s less salubrious boroughs, Between the Canals provides a commendable antidote to traditional cinematic representations of St Patrick’s Day. Don’t expect shenanigans and shillelaghs; the only paddywhackery here occurs between warring lowlifes.
Liam (Dan Hyland) has had enough of smalltime drug deals and scuffles. He just wants to join the straight world, find gainful employment as an electrician and settle down with his girlfriend and young son. His mate Dots (Peter Coonan), a cruising-for-a-bruising headcase, has other ideas. Just as Liam wants out, Dots wants further in, an ambition we soon discover is neither realistic nor prudent. Lowly junkie Scratchcard (Stephen Jones), meanwhile, just wants his next fix.
The triumvirate’s overlapping destinies, played out as one eventful St Patrick’s Day ruckus, form the spine of this freeform inner-city ballad. Picture Richard Linklater’s Slacker after a rowdy weekend with Shane McGowan and you’re almost there.
Shot over 12 days using non-professional actors and a cabal of afterschool programmes and various urban communities (singersongwriter Damien Dempsey provides the only famous face), the production achieves an impressive degree of vérité. This is the Dublin of pool-halls and sweary quips and pubs with plastic chairs.
This is a Dublin we recognise and put up with. It bears only a vague resemblance to the sleek, superficial capital depicted in Irish films during the boom years. The movie metrosexuals living in glass and finished steel apartments have been and gone. But Summerhill and Sherriff Street, addresses where much of O’Connor’s film unfolds, are unchanged.
None of which is to suggest we’re in Commitments territory. Between the Canals offers plenty of humour and mayhem without romanticising its subjects and environs. It’s wisely left to the film’s authentic dialogue and gritty presentation to provide the poetry.
We look forward to the writerdirector’s sophomore effort – a feud drama set in Ireland’s travelling communities – with cheerleading paraphernalia at the ready.
Spin the Dots: Peter Coonan in Between the Canals