Making a film is “a bit like running a marathon backwards and catching the javelin”, we were told at the gala opening of the 13th Belfast Film Festival.
The backwards Olympian in this case was Paul Kennedy, the homegrown writer, director and co-star of Made in Belfast.
Kennedy introduced his film’s world premiere by quoting Leo Tolstoy: “All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.”
Made in Belfast, he said, is the latter, adding: “It just happens to be his home town.”
The man in question is Jack Kelly – played by Fermanagh-born actor Ciaran McMenamin – a successful novelist living in Paris, whose breakout book exposed the private lives of his nearest and dearest.
Compelled to make a long-delayed return to Belfast to visit his dying father, Jack must now face the wrath of his home town, and perhaps one or two of his own demons in the process.
The basic conceit will be familiar to anyone who saw Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry, but Kennedy and a coolly compelling McMenamin play it for black comedy rather than for pratfalls.
McMenamin chalks up another strong turn; he doesn’t say or do a hell of a lot, but you can’t take your eyes off him.
The problem is that aside from a few mentions of Amsterdam and prostitutes, we’re never told enough about what it is Jack has written that has so upset people.
Without knowing exactly what the likes of Kennedy’s Matty or Tara Lynne O’Neill’s Jane have done to inspire a bestselling book, it hobbles the drama somewhat.
Still, Kennedy’s visuals are glorious and instantly recognisable and he has a go at Belfast’s ongoing identity crisis.
“This city is doing everything it can to forget the past that shaped it,” spits Alice – Jack’s spurned former fiancee played Shauna MacDonald.
Elsewhere, during a scene in Belfast City Cemetery, which references the wall that was built underground to separate the Protestant and the Catholic dead, Jack’s younger brother Petesy (Shaun Blaney) asks: “Have we always been bonkers in this country?”
Kennedy’s script is full of corking lines like this, delivered with conviction by a superbly cast ensemble of local faces. As well as the ever-reliable Lalor Roddy and Stuart Graham, there are cameo appearances by Bronagh Gallagher as a droll funeral director and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody – who executive-produced the film – as a starstruck barman.
Made in Belfast belies its microscopic budget and promises bright things for its creator. Kennedy’s debut passes the finishing line with flying colours.
Go here to read the article on Belfast Telegraph’s website.
Thanks to TTB forum member smontague for finding!