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New Release Review - Gold

A young girl's troubled biological father re-enters her life after a 12 year absence.

Directed by: Niall Heery
Starring: James Nesbitt, Maisie Williams, David Wilmot, Kerry Condon




Recently, John Michael McDonagh, director of The Guard and Calvary, caused a furore among the Irish film community by saying he doesn't like to consider his films "Irish" because of the poor quality of the nation's cinematic output. Defenders of Irish film quickly began to compile lists of great Irish films, but many missed the point of McDonagh's comments, citing international productions like The Quiet Man and In the Name of the Father, movies that had Brits or Americans working in the key technical areas. McDonagh was referring to films like Gold, that are solely the product of Irish talent.
It's certainly true that when it comes to the technical aspect, Independent Irish films are decidedly amateurish when compared to the output of the rest of Europe. Ireland has roughly the same population as the various Scandinavian countries, but the latter nations are able to produce cinema that looks technically as polished as anything Hollywood puts out. That's not to say Ireland doesn't produce skilled technicians; in fact, there is currently a large group of Irish cameramen working on acclaimed US TV shows, but it's a talent drain that has left local Irish productions in a sorry technical state.
For the most part, Gold looks like a TV soap opera, but some scenes are so poorly shot that it's a wonder reshoots weren't undertaken. A key scene by a river is both visually and aurally a travesty, with a grossly over-exposed image and dialogue muffled by the sound of a rushing river. That Gold is dogged by such technical issues is a real shame, as it's otherwise a quite charming at times little drama, though reliant on cliche, and features some great performances.
Wilmot is a character actor who has appeared in almost every Irish movie of the past two decades, and here he acquits himself well in his most substantial part to date. His character is one of the biggest indie movie cliches - the middle aged loser returning home - and we're never quite sure whether we should feel sorry for him or scorn him, but Wilmot makes him an affable screwup. 
After a 12 year absence, he returns to Dublin to be with his dying father, crashing awkwardly at the home of his former girlfriend (Condon), her husband (Nesbitt), and the daughter he never knew (Williams, with a highly unconvincing Dublin accent). The plot ticks off a bunch of homecoming tropes along the way, as Wilmot attempts to win over the cynical Williams, rekindles a romance with Condon, and makes an enemy of wannabe fitness guru Nesbitt.
If you can get past the film's technical issues* (which will probably be lessened on TV rather than an unforgiving cinema screen and sound system), and can live with the predictable nature of its plot, Gold is one of the more engaging Irish dramas of recent years.
6/10

*Since posting this review I've been contacted by the film's director and distributor, both of whom found it strange that I had issues with the technical presentation of the film, and suggested perhaps it may have been an issue with the projection at the screening I attended. The distributor, Wildcard, very kindly invited me to another screening but unfortunately I can't attend. Regardless of where the issues I highlighted stemmed from, they didn't affect my overall rating of the film.

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