Set in Co. Louth in 1816 where a small community is beset by poverty and evictions. So desperate is the situation ribbonmen move about the countryside doling out their own brand of rough justice and protecting the disenfranchised tenants. Raiding the titular homestead, owned by Edward Lynch, in search of weapons, an altercation leads an incensed Lynch to do the unthinkable and report the incident to the magistrate. A perpetrator is hanged and the locals swear revenge.
This low budget independently produced dramatisation of the events surrounding the massacre at Wild Goose Lodge near Reaghstown, Co. Louth has no little ambition but its tendency to whitewash the story in unnecessary details causes the narrative to tangent, an approach that undid recent indie Irish features A Belfast Story and A Nightingale Falling. At over two hours (some of that down to the lengthy credits showing how many locals pitched in to help) the telling can lack energy and may have worked better as a mini-series (the framing too is more akin to television). The dialogue, which drives the long scenes, can veer towards stagey: "I am much distrusted in the wilderness," is one line that stood out.
Written, co-directed and produced by Paul Macardle (who is also the director of Wild Goose Lodge productions), there's a hint that perhaps one was too close to the material and unable to see what was essential to the narrative thrust and what was not. Wild Goose Lodge loses itself to needless subplots and scenarios – Lynch's daughter (Naseen Morgan) is married but the patronage of her child is in doubt, it's not essential to know why a servant came to be in the service of the Lodge, and there's little need for a lengthy flashback to a barn dance. The music from Finbar Furey (who also has a small role) is overworked in some places (bodhrans for edgy scenes, tin whistles for gloomy ones) but is strangely absent from scenes that cry out for it, like during rabble rouser Devane’s (Muckian) big let’s-get-‘em speech. The sound can be wobbly too.
But there are elements that work. Dave Duffy's (Fair City’s Leo) priest, through whose eyes the story unfolds, is solid throughout and the second half fares better than the shaky first, with things cranking up as the massacre approaches, the sequence itself an engaging one.