Pic works because of strength of material and surprising depth of cast. Film turns on the young romantic leads, and McGuckian scores with the film debuts of Morton and McDade. Byrne and Harris bring the right mixture of humor and creepiness to their performances, making it difficult to be certain just where their characters stand.
There really isn’t a bad performance in the lot. Several in small roles, including Ian McElhinney as Hazel’s quietly supportive father, Stella McCusker as Malachy’s life-affirming mother and Des McAleer as a cynically observant member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, are standouts. Director McGuckian has a nice turn in the role of Padhar’s girlfriend.
One drawback for U.S. release will be the music. Though the song score utilizes music well known to Irish audiences, scenes of the Waterboys and Brian Kennedy in performance slow down the action, and may not resonate with Stateside viewers. (The film’s title comes from the title song of the Waterboys’ 1985 album.)
McGuckian easily handles shifts of mood from comic to tragic, deftly avoiding situations that have turned into cliches from overuse. Her background includes work with filmmaker Jim Sheridan, whom she repays with a small role as a station keeper in the film. Tech credits are crisp, and location work in Belfast offers viewers a different take on a cityscape usually depicted as war-torn rubble.