A Black and Tan in the at­tic

A NIGHTIN­GALE FALL­ING ★★ Di­rected by Gar­ret Daly, Martina McG­lynn. Star­ring Tara Breath­nach, Muire­ann Bird, Ger­ard McCarthy, Gar­ret Daly, Martina McG­lynn 12A cert, limited re­lease, 110 min

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - DON­ALD CLARKE

We must give credit where credit is due. Work­ing to a mi­nus­cule bud­get on a fran­tic sched­ule, Gar­ret Daly and Martina McG­lynn, mak­ing their fea­ture de­but, have man­aged to de­liver an Ir­ish pe­riod drama that looks pret­tier than a Ho­vis com­mer­cial. Good for them

Un­for­tu­nately, the film is hard to embrace. Stilted, slug­gish and oc­ca­sion­ally lu­di­crous, it seems suf­fo­cated by its own good in­ten­tions.

Based on a novel by PJ Cur­tis, A Nightin­gale Fall­ing tells a sim­i­lar story to that of well-re­mem­bered 1971 melo­drama The Be­guiled. Don Siegel’s Amer­i­can Civil War pic­ture saw two frus­trated south­ern sis­ters tend a wounded Yan­kee in the at­trac­tive form of Clint East­wood.

The Ir­ish film takes place in and around a cash-strapped stately pile in the mid­lands dur­ing the War of In­de­pen­dence. The as­sertive May (Tara Breath­nach) and her more naïve sis­ter Tilly (Muire­ann Bird) hap­pen upon a wounded Bri­tish of­fi­cer and, for slightly mud­dled rea­sons, end up of­fer­ing the Black and Tan shel­ter in their home. Var­i­ous jeal­ousies de­velop.

The ac­tors strug­gle hard, but are con­stantly de­feated by di­a­logue that sounds like nei­ther spo­ken English nor height­ened poetic prose. “Tilly tells me that you as­pire to de­part here,” Breath­nach mouths in a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally over­cooked snip­pet.

Graeme Ste­wart has writ­ten some fine mu­sic and the Ul­ster Orches­tra have agreed to play it, but, ap­par­ently over­whelmed by their good-for­tune, the film-mak­ers layer on the chords with a vir­tual trowel. The park­ing of a bi­cy­cle is ac­com­pa­nied by the sort of epic surge other film-mak­ers might re­serve for the part­ing of the Red Sea.

All this is filmed in such pris­tine folk-park sur­round­ings that one half-ex­pects to see blue ropes around the pe­riod bed­stead and guides lead­ing Ja­panese tourists through the eerily de­serted streets.

Oh well. A Nightin­gale Fall­ing re­mains a lo­gis­tic mar­vel. Let’s just fo­cus on that. Shall we?

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