Directed by Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney.
Starring Éanna Hardwicke, Danielle Galligan, Lorcan Cranitch, and Dafhyd Flynn.
Lakelands tells the story of Cian, a footballer who gets attacked on a night out. He will struggle to come to terms with his career-ending injury.
Irish Cinema is going through such a highpoint at present with The Banshees of Inisherin and Quiet Girl earning nominations at the Oscars and God’s Creatures another strong prospect. Another small Irish gem arrives in the shape of Lakelands, focusing on a young Irish footballers efforts to make it back onto the playing field after a particularly nasty image. The debut feature from directors Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney, Lakelands shows plenty of signs of promise, capturing the rural Irish community and having an almost documentary quality to it.
Éanna Hardwicke is a revelation as Cian Reilly, who has built his entire life around his local community with GAA Football a clear highlight in his life, with his time spent between working his family farm and playing football and socialising with mates. One night out with mates ends disastrously for Cian as he suffers a nasty injury during a fight outside a club. Initially shrugging off the extent of his injury and side effects, he strives to return to the team but it quickly becomes apparent that things are more serious than they look and it has left a lasting impact on both his physical and mental health.
Cian is a warmhearted individual but clearly frustrated by his plight with Hardwicke capturing the required depth and showing plenty of range, with so much of the narrative built around him it is a terrific performance.
This could feel like a cliché ridden tale but it is sensitively handled by its first time directors, capturing Cian’s sense of loyalty to his community and torn mindset about leaving while also capturing his frustration and desperation to get back some semblance of normality in his life. It is also refreshing for a sports film to be focused on a sport that hasn’t earned a huge amount of representation to date with these sorts of stories often focusing on football, basketball or American football. In spite of this the story feels universal.
One of the real strengths of Lakelands is capturing relationships between Cian and those around him, focusing especially on his relationship with Danielle Galligan’s Grace, an old friend who comes back into his life. There is a clear sense of warmth to the relationship and it is quite refreshing that there are no romantic undertones but more a sense of two old friends who bring enjoyment to each other’s lives and are there for one another. There is a real natural chemistry between the pair making their bond fully believable.
Lakelands stands out from other recent Irish films and proves an accomplished and entertaining debut, tackling several tricky subjects with a sense of maturity and warmth. If not always the most comfortable of watches Lakelands is well worthy of audiences’ time and continues the strong run for Irish cinema, marking both its directors and stars as ones to watch. At 100 minutes it is able to cover a lot of ground without feeling rushed and brilliantly captures the community at its centre.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★