Star Rating:

Twice Shy

Director: Tom Ryan

Actors: Pat Shortt, Ardal O'Hanlon, Iseult Casey, Shane Murray-Corcoran

Release Date: Friday 23rd June 2017

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: 81 minutes

A teenage couple (Iseult Casey and Shane Murray-Corcoran) fall in love as their lives are beginning to take shape, but it's not before long that things begin to go in a different direction...

Twice Shy has an unfortunate burden placed around its neck in that the framing device for the film - namely, a teenage couple's love story is told in flashback as they're headed to London for an abortion - is what comes out to meet you before anything else. Abortion is a hot-button topic in Ireland, and it provokes polarising opinions. Yet, what Twice Shy smartly does is makes this merely a part of the story like the unfolding of their relationship rather than everything about it. Indeed, director Tom Ryan goes to great lengths to ensure that the film isn't just zeroed in this one aspect, however controversial it may be. Instead, there's a richness of emotional moments that come together on the screen and works beautifully as a snapshot of teenage Ireland - worries about the Leaving Cert, moving away from home for the first time, the Debs, and - yes - what happens when you get pregnant and you don't want to have the child.

In the hands of another director, Twice Shy could have been a much different film and there was undoubtedly a temptation to make the film about this one aspect. However, the unfettered performances from the two leads makes it so much more and gives it an authenticity that you don't really see in dramas like this in Ireland. Iseult Casey's character, Maggie, feels like a sibling that everyone knows. She's carefree, a little off-kilter, but assured of herself in the way that people that age can only be - and, in the same moment, completely overwhelmed by what's ahead of her. She talks to Shane Murray-Corcoran about moving away from home and living in London, but then in the next scene seems nailed down to her home life and her father - played ably by Pat Shortt.

It's easily one of the most affecting performances you'll see in an Irish film this year, and Ryan's natural script and dialogue gives it enough air to come forward. By juxtaposing the two timelines - them travelling to London on a weekend away and then travelling to London for an abortion - the film approaches the topic sensitively and with a real, believable core to it. There's no moralising or handwringing about it; Iseult's character has made a choice and she's following through on it because that's the way it is. The fact that she's travelling to London for the procedure instead of having it here doesn't come up. It simply is the way it is.

Again, while that might not be what you'd expect from an Irish film about the topic, it's merely one part of it. There's a textured, believable story about being in love in your early twenties, finding yourself and who you are, what your parents have meant and what they will mean to you, and everything in between. Very few directors - especially those making their feature debut - would be able to navigate such obstacles as ably as Tom Ryan does and with an ease and delicateness that marks him out as a serious talent in the making. While some of the shots might be a little rough and ready, it all adds to that unfiltered, loose style of filmmaking you'd expect from the likes of Richard Linklater or Noah Baumbach.

One of the most interesting Irish films you'll see this year.