Galway-set Songs For Amy hits the big screen

THIS WEEKEND sees the big-screen release of Sonny and Skye production’s romantic comedy, Songs For Amy, much of which was filmed in and around Galway city and county.

Divided between the west of Ireland and New York; Songs For Amy follows the plight of musician Sean O’Malley (played by Sean Maguire ) as he tries to redeem himself with bride-to-be, Amy (Lorna Anderson ), after a debauched stag do.

With their relationship, and Sean’s future happiness, hanging in the balance, his plan is to write the perfect album of songs for her, with the help and hindrance from his misfit band mates.

The independent Irish film was written and produced by Fiona Graham, founder of Sonny and Skye Productions, and directed by Konrad Begg. Songs For Amy has been selected for several festivals including the Newport Beach Festival in California, where it was ranked fourth out of 400 films and won The Jury Award for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking’.

It was also been selected for screening at the Galway Film Fleadh, the 21st Annual Whitaker Saint Louis International Film Festival, and the Glasgow Film Festival, where it was the first film to sell out both screenings. It was also shown at the Hollywood Film Festival where it received rave reviews. In Ireland, Hotpress called it “incredibly funny and beautifully shot” and gave it the even greater accolade that it “manages to make Galway city look more romantic than Paris”.

The cast also includes Barry Ward, Ross MacMahon, and Ford Kiernan, with Kevin Ryan in the role of pop icon, ‘JJ’, as well as Olwyn Boyle, Gavin Mitchell, James Cosmo, and Patrick Bergin. Songs For Amy also enjoys an appearance from Alabama 3.

Dubbed ‘the musician’s film’ due to an authentic portrayal of the vibrant Irish music scene; the film’s soundtrack features music by Loughrea’s Ultan Conlon and Kinvara-based Ulsterman Jim McKee, as well as Alabama 3, Eleanor Shanley, Tom Paxton, Glen Campbell, and Jono McCleery.

Sean O’Malley is played by Sean Maguire. Although born in Essex, his surname suggests his family are originally from Ireland. His mother’s people came from Clare while his father’s family are from Cavan. Sean was a child actor and his very first role was at the age of five opposite Laurence Olivier, no less, in Voyage Round My Father. He was also a member of the children’s choir, singing ‘Every Sperm is Sacred’ in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.

Sean went on to appear in hit BBC series Grange Hill and Eastenders. His more recent credits include playing Robin Hood in US series Once Upon A Time. As well as acting roles, he has also released three music albums during the 1990s, thus giving him an immediate affinity for the musician’s role he plays in Songs For Amy.

With numerous TV and movie credits in both the UK and US, remarkably this was his first time doing an Irish-set film.

“That was one of the most appealing parts of this project,” he tells me, speaking from his current LA base. “When I read the script I was a bit scared at first I might not be able to do justice to the beautiful songs by Ultan Conlon and Jim McKee, but when I met them both they really encouraged me.

“Also, the honesty of the film really appealed to me and it had a great script and a great team of people, I got on really well with Konrad our director, we had the same ideas for the kind of film we wanted to make so I was very lucky to do it.”

How would he describe the character of Sean O’Malley who he portrays in the movie?

“Sean is a really honest, decent guy, a simple singer songwriter,” Maguire says. “I found parallels with my own life having been a singer myself in the 1990s, so it enabled me to re-explore that world and it shows the contrast between a fake, manufactured pop star and someone who is genuine about his singing.

“In my own music career I was like the manufactured pop singer kind of person so I enjoyed portraying the genuine kind of singer in this film, I think it helped me iron out some kinks from my past! It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that the pop world can be pretty fake and bullshitty. It was interesting for me to portray this west of Ireland singer songwriter who has heart and soul. I hope the film helps Ultan and Jim’s music get the recognition it richly deserves.”

If the reviews and accolades are anything to go by it seems Songs For Amy should indeed do that. It’s at a big screen near you from this Friday. Go see!

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