Dare to be Wild (2016)

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Wasn’t it Voltaire who advised people to tend their own (metaphorical) garden? Garden designer Mary Reynolds does it here, in spades. This story of a young country girl who believes in fairies and grows up to be a willful eccentric who wants to compete at the Chelsea Garden Show is a most unusual Irish film:  it looks great. DoP Cathal Watters and debutante director Vivienne DeCourcy obviously decided, Enough of the grey skies and the muddy vistas, and tore up the rulebook about how to present a country where it rains 10 months of the year. They might even have taken a leaf from the Irish National Gallery and noted the palette of William Leech’s garden paintings with their blistering sunlight, glistening whites and brilliant tones. This is a film of playful, rainbow colours, dominated by Consolata Boyle’s extraordinary costume design telling Mary’s story through her clothes – compensating perhaps for a rather wayward if charming performance at the story’s centre by Emma Greenwell as she makes her way gawkily through Dublin society. She has to fight for funding and gain the trust of fellow outsider Christy Collard (Tom Hughes), an eco-designer whose preoccupation with bringing water to Ethiopia sets them at odds when she appeals for his aid because his family’s business can help supply wildflowers and 200-year old whitethorn trees to build her Celtic dream garden. The tone of the film is somewhat damaged by the unnecessary caricatures of Mary’s bete noire, Shah, the socially mobile employer who steals her design book;  Madden, the Bono-like rock star; and Nigel Hogg, the head of Chelsea. These strike an odd note in a film of otherwise impeccably offbeat taste. The diversion to the desert of Ethiopia is a sensual breath of fresh air, the eventual romance hardly surprising given that Hughes is probably the most delectable flower on display, here or anywhere right now, a right royal heart throb as viewers of ITV’s Victoria will already know. In a fitting touch, Mary’s winning speech is the cosmic order tacked on her refrigerator door. Despite using the true story, the connection is disavowed at the conclusion, rather like Chelsea did to Reynolds when they wouldn’t allow her into the celebration at the Show’s finale. Quirky, lovely and just a little bit wild.

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Another Shore (1948)

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Ealing whimsy could fall between two stools – and tragicomedy is the acknowledged text of this outing, set in dear old dirty Dublin, a begrimed metropolis one year before the Republic was declared. Gulliver Shields (Robert Beatty) is a bored customs clerk who throws in his job for a ruse witnessing traffic accidents opposite Trinity College, much to the annoyance of the usual hoi polloi who hang around in the porticoes of the Bank of Ireland. His aim is to get enough cash to go to the South Seas paradise of Raratonga. Nice girl Jennifer (Moira Lister) drinks nearby in the Buttery (hi Matt!) and takes a fancy to him, ultimately causing a disruption to his plans which might yet see the light of day after he falls in with (or in front of) wealthy Alastair (Stanley Holloway), who made his money in Tahiti… Beatty probably wasn’t the man for this unconvincing adaptation of the book by Kenneth Reddin (who was to become a judge), handled perhaps as well as the material allowed by Walter Meade, who also wrote that lovely film Brandy for the Parson as well as Scott of the Antarctic. There’s an interesting score by Georges Auric but Charles Crichton would do a lot better in the director’s chair. However the post-war setting is worth seeing – in a country where WW2 was called The Emergency, a state which has yet to be officially lifted.