Friday, April 24, 2015

The Monday Club - a film that remembers Belfast fondly & celebrates the character of its people #bff15

An old man sits alone in the pub. Danny is comforted by his pint, and a miniature conifer plant in a pot he eccentrically brought with him in a paper bag and intermittently feeds with a few drops of whisky from a glass. But most of all he’s cheered by his yarns and reminiscences of absent friends.

Along with his colourful shipyard colleagues, Danny used to “put the world to rights in a drunken stupor” at the start of the working week in what became known as The Monday Club.

Brian Mulholland’s 70 minute film was premièred tonight as part of the Belfast Film Festival and began with a quote from CS Lewis:
Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too?”

Danny imparts memorable incidents from his past and that of his colleagues in-between sips of the black stuff. The narrative switches between long monologues from Danny in the pub to other people telling his old drinking buddies’ stories. Gradually the audience build up a picture of the common threads that bound together this group and made the men and their families tick.

Carl Best’s camerawork and editing lets the heads do the talking with few distractions. Minimal shot changes and a tight focus on faces – sharp eyebrows and soft mouths – allow the audience to concentrate on the emotion and pathos.
A window cleaner never judges as one day the window might become a mirror.

There’s more than a drop of Belfast wit and wisdom in the contributions. The Movie House audience giggled along with some of Danny’s wisecracks and particularly enjoyed the tale of Stevie’s shovel-enhanced toilet break.

The pace varies, and at one point the dialogue felt unnecessarily rushed. With the lack of conversation, it can all get a bit flowery (eg “her feline-shaped eyes that cut right through you”).

That said, overall it’s a really well scripted film. Spoken word is interlaced with verse and Katie Richardson/Goldie Fawn’s beautiful songs light up the latter stages of film. (Earlier on, music through the medium of vinyl was said to be a reflective “black mirror”.)

The Monday Club ends with an unforeseen and moving twist that is delivered convincingly by Derek Halligan (playing Danny). The film could easily be adapted and become successful on stage.

Right from the start, there are recognisable images of Belfast. While most of the yarns reveal the pain that travels with families, through generations – hurts, secrets and sorrow – The Monday Club is a film that remembers Belfast fondly and celebrates the character of its people.

Speaking after the cheering had subsided at the end of tonight’s première, director Brian Mulholland referred to the simple “For Belfast” end credit and said:
“I love this city. It has its flaws, but don’t we all.”

The Monday Club is a triumph and belies the tiny production budget. Normally associated with the quarterly Film Devour short film screenings, director Brian Mulholland and first-time producer Corrine Heaney along with everyone who helped Stay Beautiful Films should be very proud of their long-form creation and its passionate celebration of life and community.

PS: The painted toenails that appear in a bath deserve their own entry in the end credits!

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