It has been a stellar year for Irish cinema, which has been riding a wave of momentum that has cumulated in some extremely strong features. Frank Berry’s superb Michael Inside earlier in the year and now Dublin Old School – a crowd-pleasing stomper that has been crafted with care, passion and warmth.
Emmet Kirwan and Ian Lloyd Anderson have played these characters on stage for some time, with Anderson portraying about 20 in a genuinely staggering feat. Here he solely takes the role of Daniel, long-lost brother to Kirwan’s Jason. Daniel is back on the streets of Dublin with a heroin addiction he desperately wants to kick; the estranged siblings occasionally bump into each other around the city as Jason goes from session to session, pondering lost loves and generally getting bleedin’ out of eh.
It’s difficult to recall an Irish film like Dublin Old School that portrays the capital in such a funny and entertaining way. You know guys like Jason, you know that group of friends; they’ve just never been this authentic.
Director Dave Tynan pulls things together with real panache, showing a deft touch and juggling a simple, but layered story, with sometimes contrasting tone, in an almost disconcertingly assured way for a first-time helmer. He also allows his talented cast room to breath, particularly with the more amusing moments.
Kirwan has long been one of our most underrated talents and should see career opportunities soar as the outspoken, intelligent actor has a magnifying class held over his seemingly endless abilities. He’s what makes Dublin Oldschool’s heart beat. But Anderson is equally impressive in a heart-breaking turn as his older brother; Daniel is a deeply layered character and very few actors could deliver the depth of performance Anderson does.
The peripheral characters are used sparingly but effectively; with Seána Kerslake once again a standout. Dublin Old School shines a light over a lot of young Irish talent, and the Dublin actress is superb in a small, but significant part.
Simply put, films like this don’t come along very often. Almost simultaneously funny, touching and sad, it feels like a feature-length highlight reel for Irish talent firing on all cylinders.