One of the potentially biggest Irish films of the year premiered at the prestigious Berlinale film festival last night.

‘Small Things Like These’, based on Irish author Claire Keegan’s acclaimed short novel and starring Cillian Murphy in the lead role, is the first Irish film to ever open the festival. It was adapted for the screen by Enda Walsh and also stars Emily Watson and Eileen Walsh.

Murphy plays the role of Bill Furlong, a working father of five who becomes inadvertently intertwined with the story of a young girl in a Magdalene Laundry in Wexford in the 1980s.

Murphy, who is headed to the BAFTAs this Sunday where he is nominated in the Best Actor category for his role in ‘Oppenheimer’, told RTE that the film’s subject matter is “a lot to take on, it’s certainly a collective trauma we’re all processing. My generation and an older generation, it is still something we are trying to figure out.”

The reviews for the film - which has not yet been designated a release date or distributor in Ireland - were overwhelmingly positive, with IndieWire praising Murphy’s performance and calling the film “a profound Irish gem”.

“Murphy has proven many times before his ability to hold something burning and unknowable behind the eyes — the ever-simmering violence of Tommy Shelby; the burdensome genius of Robert Oppenheimer — and here he once again channels that ability to convey the deep empathy that lies behind Bill’s taciturn exterior,” the review read.

The Hollywood Reporter said Murphy’s performance “rips your heart out despite being an unimpeachable model of restraint” and said of the film: “Led with aching sensitivity by Murphy (also a producer, alongside his Oppenheimer cast mate Matt Damon), this is a somber, unhurried drama that takes its cue from the seeming quietness of the title and is all the more intensely moving for it.”

Variety praised screenwriter Enda Walsh’s “spare, sharp dialogue”, adding “But it’s Murphy’s exquisitely pained performance, unclenching by fine degrees into something like grace, that gives “Small Things Like These” its eventual, fist-in-the-gut power, even as the film evades melodramatic confrontation to the last, ending elegantly at a point where many other stories might choose to begin.”

Deadline, on the other hand, were less effusive, claiming that Walsh's script "squeezes the hope of the Christmas story" out of Keegan's novel, describing the film as a "trauma narrative" which is lacking in dramatic tension.

The Irish release date is TBC.