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MOVIES (GFF 2023): Lakelands - Review

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Patrick McGivney and Robert Higgins take over writing and directing duties for their first feature; set in Ireland – and feeling, very clearly Irish – Lakelands is yet another film to air at Glasgow Film Festival focusing around a rural community. We’ve had The Beasts and God’s Creatures and now Lakelands is another excellent addition; the intricacies of a small Irish town are presented here, how vital the football club where its main character Cian Reilly calls home to the town and the drinking culture that’s so prolific plays out in the backdrop as Reilly is beaten and assaulted after a wild night out following an away game.

Lakelands follows in the wake of the louder, shoutier Creed III, both objectively sports films tackling with the concept of male depression and vulnerability – and the need to talk and be open more. Lakelands surrounds Reilly with those who he can call friends and establishes his social circle that’s tightly knit, and watches him threaten to spiral. It’s a powerfully acted, sombre and reflective film that makes him feel real: we get to see him at an age where his future is very much set; work in the farm in the mornings, play football and then go out in the evenings. But he’s one of the older team members and when an injury side-lines him – he’s forced to watch the younger generation take his place - envisioning a future, for the first time - that's not the way he planned it to be.

I loved the film’s direction in the friendship between Reilly and Grace, with Lakelands being smart enough not to complicate things with a love triangle: there’s clear chemistry between Eanna Hardwicke and Danielle Galligan, but with Grace’s new partner in the picture, a London Doctor – and despite the negging of his friends when they hear he’s spending more time with Grace, Lakelands does an excellent job at resisting the temptation to make them an item. The way the film explores the regrets that they could have had: it’s yet another commentary on the differences between those who stay in the rural areas and those who go off for education, with Reilly recalling that he didn’t want to hang around Grace because he didn’t think she’d want anything to do with him – showcases the lost memories, and the inward reflection and soul-searching that Lakelands is capable of pulling off. It’s rich, raw and honest in its portfolio with a complete belief in its sincerity, and that’s what makes it work so well.

More of these sports films should be made that focus on the characters and their coming to terms with who they are after a big change; and the need to open up and talk – defying the expectations of a masculine sport. Lakelands is just utterly superb in how it handles such a delicate subject matter – a quiet triumph.

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