London Film Festival: Dublin Oldschool

Writers: Emmet Kirwan, Dave Tynan

Director:  Dave Tynan

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Books and plays are the frequent basis for film, but it’s fairly rare to see an Irish film of an Irish play screened at a major international festival. Dublin Oldschool is Emmet Kirwan’s adaptation of his own play written in 2014. With its heart and soul in the Irish city, Kirwan’s story of drug addiction, partying and aimlessness transfers the main story arc and characters from the play and opens out the story with additional material for the film co-written with director Dave Tynan.

Jason wakes up on the street, prodded by two children with sticks, he thinks it’s Saturday but it’s actually Friday and he’s late for work at the record shop where he works. Promised a DJ slot by his boss at a rave in Wicklow over the bank holiday weekend ahead, Jason and his friends party their way around the houses and pubs of Dublin. By chance he bumps into his homeless brother Daniel, a heroine addict, and starts to confront the emptiness of his life.

Forget the endless drug-taking and drinking, Dublin Oldschool is really a story about two brothers trying to find their way back to one another. Kirwan and Tynan’s screenplay is most alive when it is just Jason and Daniel exchanging banter, fighting and rediscovering the lost bond between them. There is plenty of depth and a credible backstory to explain why Daniel is homeless and why Jason refuses to help, and the pair draw out the intensity of knowing someone so well but unable to face home truths about themselves.

The rest of the film has its moments and there is genuinely sharp comedy, particularly at the beginning as the particularly cheeky Irish humour lands very nicely with the audience, but party scenes tend to blend into one another as Jason stumbles from one high to the next with a group of friends that never quite feel like real people. Jason’s aimlessness affects the rest of the movie, with long sections that never really lead anywhere as your attention phases in and out.

Kirwan’s Jason is likeable if frustrating, a deliberate everyman who lives entirely for the weekends, for casual drug-taking and waking-up in strange houses. You do get the sense of chaos in his wider life, a man-child not quite ready to let go of his wilder youth, but Kirwan gives him depth too, a genuine affection for his brother and good intentions perhaps even if he’s not quite capable of fulfilling them.

Ian Lloyd Anderson’s Daniel is in many ways the more interesting character, separating from his family because of his addiction and now trying to wean himself off heroine while living rough. He also acts as a warning, a signal to Jason that something he thinks he can control will soon be controlling him, and Daniel delivers a wake-up call that suggests a redemptive future for both of them.

Tynan’s film debut is an interesting if slightly uneven start, and although the narrative becomes too baggy, tonally Tynan’s approach is consistent and energetic, particularly capturing the heated mass of the party set. Lots of care has gone into ensuring that the locations are consistent, that roads lead where they are supposed to – something only locals will ever spot, but a nice touch. A talented cast and a script with unrealised potential, next year’s London Film Festival should make space for even more exports from the Irish film industry.

Release Date: 29 June 2018

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