Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Shore

Movie Review: The Shore.

Director: Terry George

Reviewed: 18 February 2012

jamesintexas rating--*** (4 Stars = Highest Rating)

Terry George has written and directed some of the most striking films of the past twenty years dealing with reconciliation and remorse (Hotel Rwanda, In The Name of the Father, The Boxer), and his latest feature is a thirty minute short film about reconciliation and homecoming. Thematically, and in part due to its stunning Irish setting, I found myself drawing quiet parallels to Joyce's "The Dead" with its focus on the inner worlds of people around us, people that we think we know. The Shore is currently nominated for Best Live Action Short Film.

An understated Ciaran Hinds delivers a solid, respectable performance as Joe, a man who returns to his homeland of Northern Ireland with his adult daughter, confronting a past relationship and a past friendship that has deteriorated. Conleth Hill (unrecognizable from his role in Game of Thrones) delivers an equally solid, lived-in performance as Paddy, the one who stayed behind. There's a woman involved and some winning banter among Paddy and his unemployed friends who spend time at the nearby shore, supplementing their unemployment checks with whatever they can scrounge.

The film feels like a labor of love, and the performances onscreen register as true. The film deftly handles the transition between comedy and drama, and there is a great reversal late in the film. I feel like the Irish landscape has never looked better (Joe states, "I forgot how green it was here!"), and George captures the painful nostalgia of looking at photo albums, confronting regret and pain, articulating hidden stories to family members and friends.

However, George clumsily handles the ending; it seems unsure of itself which contrasts with the assured hand displayed in the rest of the film. The character of Mary (Maggie Cronin) is the linchpin of the cast and the story, yet there seems to be a missing speech from her to tie the strands together. For her character to be so central to the epiphany and to not have screen time to articulate her choice is regrettable; George lessens the power of his conclusion. And the singing conclusion around the fire, though telegraphed really early in the film, does not have the emotional power that I wanted it to have.

Still, The Shore has a quality that I really do not see in film consistently: reflection. It's length and quiet and stillness all build into a well-made short story of a film with a central piece missing, yet it is the kind of film that sticks with you. Hinds does a terrific job, and I would be happy to see Terry George and daughter Oorlagh (a fellow graduate of Kenyon College) on the stage accepting the Academy Award for this film.

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