"What are you gonna do now that this is all over? This was like 25% of your personality," a fellow critic asks as we sit down to the press screening of 'Blackbird'.

It's a serious question, one I wasn't prepared for. I spent four and a half years trying to see this. That journey came to an end last Wednesday in a darkened cinema on the north side of Dublin.

The reviews have been published. The audience came, laughed, and left. We are now in a reality where 'Blackbird' is no longer than the great white whale of trash cinema. It joins the milieu of midnight cinema offerings, complete with its own drinking game instigated on its opening weekend. People even turned up for the first screenings wearing fedoras and bowties in honour of Flatley's imaginatively titled MI5 agent Victor Blackley. Mark Kermode pronounced it as one of the worst films he has ever seen. Flatley himself appeared on 'The Late Late Show' and played his flute for Ryan Tubridy.

How did 'Blackbird' attain this cult status? Everyone knew it was going to be terrible. That much is obvious. Audiences arrived at the cinema knowing this, even before reviews were published. No, 'Blackbird' had an aura of mystery and cult surrounding it because it was so rare. The hunt for it had several stages, with different parties taking up the scent. We were on part of it. Yet, in the end, it was released like any other movie, joining a weekend schedule alongside George Miller's latest offering and summer clingers like 'Top Gun: Maverick'.

There are, right now, roughly 4,000 films available to watch on Netflix across all territories. Prime Video probably has double this figure, and Disney+ has both the combined libraries of 20th Century Fox and Disney at its disposal. You also have the likes of the Criterion Collection, Shudder, Mubi, Irish streaming services Volta and [email protected], to say nothing of YouTube's own library of rentals, Apple TV, and a dozen other niche streaming services. Even with the demise of physical media, there exists literally hundreds of thousands of movies now out of print that are available via piracy sites and torrents. Yet, in all of these libraries, 'Blackbird' never once appeared. During the depths of the pandemic, some believed it would. After all, Flatley won himself a Best Actor gong from the Monaco Streaming Film Festival - which didn't stream 'Blackbird' for critics or journalists, instead offering them an in-person cinema ticket. In Monaco. In the middle of a pandemic lockdown.

There is an Irish saying, which surprisingly didn't make it into 'Blackbird' considering it's replete with superfluous Gaelic throughout its script. "An rud is annamh is iontach", which translated into English means "what is seldom is wonderful". The rarity is what made 'Blackbird' such a prize. For his part, Flatley helped this by refusing to discuss it with journalists beyond a few red carpet interviews and a couple of light prods from a host. No Irish outlet received any long-form interview with him, and given how every one of them roundly trounced his directorial efforts and acting skills, we can be nearly certain that this will not happen.

If Flatley decides to make another 'Blackbird', the magic will be lost entirely. The long journey to the cinema is what made 'Blackbird', not just the awfulness of it. What is seldom is wonderful, and seldom has there been such a terrible movie that has been so eagerly awaited. Indeed, what is so rare about 'Blackbird' is the sense of community that it brings when people go to see it together in a cinema.

"There was an older couple in front of us who seemingly had no idea everyone was there in an ironic way," said one audience member at the Light House Cinema screening on Friday. Speaking to those who attended other public screenings, it was about a good time in the cinema as you could hope for. People laughing, cheering, making fun of Flatley's terrible acting, the drinking games - maybe that makes it all worthwhile?

For me, it's like a dog chasing a car. Now that it's stopped, I'm not really sure what to do with any of it. I filed my review, I did my media appearances and interviews, and then I went home and tried to process it. I'm still trying to process it. Did I waste four and a half years on this? Was he always going to release it or did I just build this up in my head? Was this just some convoluted and exquisitely timed marketing on his part? Was it just a comedy of errors? Was it merely a confluence of random events - a pandemic, a window in the release calendar - that led to its release? I am plagued with endless doubt over whether I've helped a rich man become richer, to say nothing of his tacit support in the past of the likes of Donald Trump.

Four and a half years ago, I set off on what's been described by various broadcasters as "an odyssey" and "a quixotic attempt" to see Michael Flatley's directorial debut, 'Blackbird'. Quixotic comes from 'Don Quixote', the Spanish tragi-comedy by Cervantes. Quixote spends his life entranced with chivalric romances, sets off on a quest believing himself a knight-errant and to win the love of a peasant woman whom he believes a princess. He tilts with his lance at windmills, travels across Spain, all of it under a haze that he is on a noble quest.

He's only woken from his madness when he is defeated by a knight and ordered to return home with his squire, Sancho Panza, where he rejects the life of knight-errantry and his mad quests. Yet, earlier in the book, there's a scene from it that rings true to me - and maybe to Michael Flatley. Don Quixote discusses the nature of critics and how some authors lose their fame and are injured upon publishing, and that critics never offer up their own work. Michael Flatley may get something out of that line. For me, it was this. "There is no book so bad that something good may not be found in it." If nothing else comes from 'Blackbird', it can be that people have had a good time at the cinema watching it.

And with that, I lay down my lance.