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March 19, 2018 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Ireland in Film

The Old: In Bruges (2008)

5/5

By Lauren White

Following a botched job, two Irish hitmen (Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell) are sent to the city of Bruges, Belgium, to await further instructions from their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes).
Films like to portray assassins in the formulaic “Bond” light; unfeeling, clinical professionals, detached from morality. Allowing these characters to retain their virtuosity and strangeness is where Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards, Seven Psychopaths) takes you from the beginning.

This dynamic of hitmen with hearts created increasingly grim situations where I felt constantly torn between laughing and collapsing in tears — it’s perfect fodder for a fantastically black comedy. Gleeson’s character is the more lilting and weather-worn of the two, with an appreciation for Bruges Venetian-esque canals and holy relics. Farrell’s, on the other hand, is bored out of his mind, passing up gothic architecture in lieu of getting pissed and laid.

In this movie, the clumsy violence coupled with religious significance is red seeping over white snow and between the pews of a church, splashed against a macabre painting of The Last Judgment.

In Bruges is great in the way that Martin McDonagh’s best stories are. He takes the time to invest in characters, so when moments of twisted hilarity occur, you can’t help but ache for the victims of the joke (though in all honesty he could have just looped footage of Colin Farrell’s eyebrows furrowing in immature disbelief for two hours and I would still give it 5/5).

It is also one of Farrell’s best performances, and he gets to deliver the best line of the film: “If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me, but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”

The story culminates in a ridiculous and poetically poignant shoot-out, that brings it to a satisfying close. It makes sense of the many bizarre aspects of what could have been a convoluted plot, and left me with a peculiar yearning to visit Bruges.

The New: Handsome Devil (2016)

5/5

By Emma Maguire

Handsome Devil is the queer comedy-drama you never knew you needed. Set in an Irish boarding school, our two heroes, Ned (Fionn O’Shea) and Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), form an unlikely friendship in the midst of the school’s hyper-masculine, rugby-obsessed culture. Ned’s a writer, quick-witted and intelligent, while Conor finds solace in rugby and other athletic pursuits. It doesn’t seem like they would be good friends, but when they’re forced to room together by the headmaster of the school, they find that they have a lot more in common than they first realised — they’re both not entirely heterosexual.

Handsome Devil is not a love story — this narrative doesn’t end with Ned and Conor riding off into the sunset together — but it does hold an important position within queer film history. Many queer narratives end in death or destruction (the “Bury Your Gays” trope exists for a reason), and it is very rare to get an ending where all of the characters are happy.

While Ned and Conor go through a lot in this film (mostly situational homophobia), their friendship is (mostly) good and pure. Although the climax of the film is a tad “Disney” and more than a little bit cheesy, the positivity just adds into the overall good vibes of the film. It’s a comedy-drama for a reason, after all!

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