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Stars: Nora-Jane Noone, Nika McGuigan, Martin McCann, Kate Dickie

Director: Cathy Brady

The days of Irish whimsy, so prevalent in days past, are long gone now and The Guard apart, modern Irish cinema has become increasingly bleak and violent, as perhaps befitting more than 100 years of The Troubles that began in earnest back in World War One.

Small wonder, then, that references to unrest and discord form (perhaps too great a) part of the backdrop to this story of warring yet loving sisters.

At a border town in the north of Ireland (where signs saying 'Irish unity - the answer to Brexit' are indicative of an uneasy peace), the deeply troubled Kelly (the late McGuigan, who died from leukemia in 2019) returns after a year's unexplained absence to lodge with her sister Lauren (Noone) and partner/husband Sean (McCann), whose mere countenance is sufficient to suggest his hostility.

Lots of shouting ensures, as the girls break up, then make up in their immutable love/hate relationship, while Sean, who doesn't make up at all, is dying to send Kelly to the nearest shrink, especially when she digs up his precious lawn to make a vegetable patch. And Kelly's attempts to teach local kids to hold their breath underwater are clearly a disaster waiting to happen.

At back of all this lies the shadow of the girls' parents, the father killed (by the IRA?), the mother a probable suicide - in the red coat that Kelly now adopts.

Irish accents can be quite difficult in this one, although the rawness of the emotions transcends such barriers, and the two leads, though a tad too old for their roles (the tragic McGuigan was 33 and Noone 35 at time of filming) inhabit their parts with immense sympathy. You'll be on tenterhooks to see if one, or both survive to the end.

Admittedly, however, the film is a little slow in parts, with some shots, including one of the sisters asleep, held far beyond their natural length.

David Quinlan

UK (Northern Ireland) 2020. UK Distributor: Modern Films (BBC/Film 4). Colour (unspecified).
85 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 30 Aug 2021