THE 27TH annual Galway Film Fleadh kicked off last night with the world premiere of a new Irish film, My Name Is Emily, and the story behind the project is almost as interesting as the film itself.
The writer/director Simon Fitzmaurice was an up and coming filmmaker, father of two children, and husband to a pregnant wife, when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2008. He has not let his disease hinder nor define him and went on to direct this, his first feature length film, last year including getting help from crowdfunding website Indiegogo.Fitzmaurice wrote about his life in his memoir, It’s Not Yet Dark, last year and is currently the subject of a documentary about both his life and the making of My Name Is Emily. It was a pleasure to see him at the screening and do a brief questions and answers after the film.
My Name Is Emily is at heart a road movie. We follow Emily, a young girl who on her birthday runs away from her foster parents with her boyfriend planning to find and free her father from a psychiatric hospital. Along the way she comes to terms with her mother's passing, her father's breakdown, and learns to open herself up to her partner.
Emily is played by the wonderful Evanna Lynch. She gives Emily a lightness and ethereal quality, but is still a commanding lead, showing her inner pain with a subtlety beyond her years. Emily’s father Robert is played by the always incredible Michael Smiley, who captures the loneliness of mental illness with humour and heartbreaking honesty.
The script does not shy away from difficult issues and confronts mental illness in a refreshingly modern way. Emily is open about who her father is and what he is suffering from. His mental illness is not a stigma she hides from people and, to me, highlights how young people today do not associate such illnesses with the shame and embarrassment people did years ago.
The Irish countryside is one of the other stars of the film. Cinematographer Seamus Deasy captures Ireland beautifully. It is not bathed in sun nor is it raining like a monsoon. It is fresh, misty, and real, you can smell it through the screen and it made me want to take a road trip through the countryside as soon as possible.
When a film has such a wonderful story about its making it's a relief when the product it is as good as this. My Name Is Emily is one of my top films of 2015 so far and I am sure will be a hit when it goes on general release later in the year.