A moving film set in the Irish midlands, which reflects on men struggling to find a way to express their emotions in life-changing circumstances.

I am completely mystified as to how this beautifully-structured Irish film is being written about as a sports movie. Granted, Gaelic football is an important part of the main character’s life, and having to give it up is difficult for him to come to terms with. But it could just as easily have been playing a musical instrument or driving his car – what’s important is the enforced and sudden change to his life, not the sporting aspect.

On a boozy might out with his football friends, Cian (Éanna Hardwicke) gets involved in a fight and in a split second sustains what will turn out to be a serious injury. During the process of his recovery, he at first refuses to act on the medical advice that is given, and the story follows his gradual realisation that his life will need to be different from this point on.

Cian’s struggle to come to terms with changes to what has been routine is made the more difficult because of his inability to articulate his emotions to those around him. His friends on the football team would never dream of telling each other how they really feel, and mask their fears and concerns with aggression, drinking, or both. At the same time, Cian’s father (an excellent Lorcan Cranitch) also lacks the emotional vocabulary to support his son, and his efforts to help him lead to misunderstandings, which can only be resolved when Cian is no longer in denial about his new circumstances.

The joint writers and directors (Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney) were present for a Q&A after the film, and I asked them whether the absence of female characters was a deliberate choice. Their aim, they said, was to show how the men deal with life and its difficulties without the presence of female characters, and to demonstrate how the language they have at their disposal to communicate their emotions limits their ability to communicate with each other, particularly across generations.

Lakelands is an understated and moving film from fledgling filmmakers, with good performances from the cast all round. I hope it gets some attention when it is released next month – it deserves it, and I’m interested to know what the filmmakers do next.

Lakelands played at Manchester Film Festival 2023 and receives a UK and Ireland release on 5th May 2023.

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