Friday, September 16, 2022

Róise & Frank – superstition and grief combine in this Irish language homage to Lassie (QFT until 22 September)

Ireland’s answer to Lassie hits the silver screen this weekend. A cute and persistent dog somewhat knowingly grooms Róise (Bríd Ní Neachtain), a widowed grandmother. Soon the empathetic canine is sitting in her husband’s chair, eating his favourite meal at the table, patiently listening to Róise’s reminisces, and is left on the sofa watching sport on TV while she’s out of the house.

Throw in besotted choirmaster Donncha (Lorcan Cranitch) who struggles to find a way past the dog to make his move on the widow, and her son Alan (Cillian O'Gairbhi) who isn’t crazy about dogs. Oh, and the dog (played by incredibly well-trained Barley) is given the name Frank, given his familiarity with the spirit of Róise’s former partner.

If you’re expecting a profound observation of grief or reincarnation, think again. Róise & Frank is like one of those cable TV films for children that aired on BBC One after school on Friday afternoons in the late 1980s. Except this is an Irish language feature, written and directed by Rachael Moriarty and Peter Murphy, and has been given a cinema release. On the plus side, there are some great slow motion overhead shots of junior hurling. But for most of the time it relies on lots of running around, people exclaiming “Oh Mother of God”, and an epidemic of superstition that quickly spreads throughout the rural Irish community. 

Róise & Frank is a great wholesome alternative to Minions: The Rise of Gru if you have a ten-year-old in your family. It might have worked as a short film trading on rural Irish sensibilities and eccentricities. But as a 90-minute feature, it’s a shaggy dog story which – like Róise – perhaps should have moved on a lot sooner. Róise & Frank is being screened at Queen’s Film Theatre until Thursday 22 September.

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