Cinema review: An Bronntanas

AN BRONNTANAS, set and filmed in the west of Ireland, with dialogue almost entirely as Gaeilge, and with a host of young, local, actors, was a fine choice as the closing film of this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.

Two brothers, JJ (Dara Devaney ) and Macdara (Pól Ó Griofa ) are reunited at their father's funeral. JJ has returned from Canada and, despite being the younger brother, he is told he has inherited the family fish farm.

Macdara is in trouble with local drug dealers and soon learns the once profitable family business is on the verge of closure. The family factory is also a large employer and its closure would have terrible consequences for the small town.  

On the night of his father’s month’s mind, the brothers are called out on the local lifeboat to answer a distress call in the midst of a storm. Eventually they find the boat and on board discover a dead body, along with €1 million worth of drugs. Macdara sees the drugs as a gift from their deceased father, an answer to both the boys financial woes.

Reluctantly, JJ agrees to try to sell the drugs and save the family business. However his suspicions are raised when the third man on the boat, a polish immigrant named Jakub (Janusz Shegall ), seems to know more about the drugs and the body than he originally let on.

Dealing with familiar themes of immigration, the recession, and difficult father/son relationships, director Tom Collins manages to grab a perfect snapshot of modern life in the west of Ireland. An Bronntanas though is not a sombre affair with some welcome comic relief coming from Dean Whatton and Conal O’Céidigh.

The performances from the leads, and Roisin (Michelle Beamish ) as JJ’s old flame, are some of the best we will see on the Irish screen. However the script occasionally lets the actors down with unnecessary exposition.

Another problem is the sometime intrusive score. Often the stillness of Connemara was interrupted by uninspired generic music when the wind and rain and even silence were all that was needed.

That said, An Bronntanas is set be shown as a mini series on TG4 over Christmas and is sure to be a hit. Tom Collins’ wonderful direction is the main reason such an ambitious script can be filmed on a small TV budget. Several set pieces, like the attempted rescue of the boat mid-storm, are as good as anything you will see on HBO or the BBC. An Bronntanas will be well worth watching on TG4.

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