- Film & TV
- 26 Jul 19
There has been an increasing number of films that use the capital city as a setting – and do it with real style and gusto. Hot Press film critic, Roe McDermott, looks at the movies that have portrayed Dublin most memorably, and guides you through some of the iconic locations they have highlighted.
Dublin Oldschool (Dir. Dave Tynan, 2018)
Jason (Emmet Kirwan) spends his days swaggering around Dublin like he’s young and carefree, though neither is quite true anymore. The late nights of coke and yokes has turned into a never-ending quest for him and his cohorts, which is slowly taking its toll. He’s missing work, letting down his friends – but sure it’s all good craic, right? It’s not until Jason bumps into his estranged brother Daniel (Ian Lloyd Anderson) on the streets of Dublin that he realises it might not be, anymore. Daniel is slowly recovering from heroin addiction, and as the two brothers address their issues over a series of meetings, Jason is forced to confront his sense of superiority about which drugs he uses to escape reality. Kirwan and Lloyd are both compelling performers, with Anderson bringing a melancholic intelligence to the role and serves as a beautiful foil to the more outrageous and comic characters in Jason’s life: The streets of Dublin are vital to the film too: the Liffey boardwalk, Francis Street in the Liberties, Anseo (18 Camden Street, D2). Director Dave Tynan’s vision of the city is authentic, raw and emotional. This may be old school, but it’s a new telling – and it’s thrilling.
Michael Inside (Dir. Frank Berry, 2018)
Class, masculinity, violence and incarceration are all up for examination in Frank Berry’s engrossing prison drama. Starring newcomer Dafhyd Flynn as naïve 18-year-old Michael, the film’s power lies in its intense realism. Extensively researched and workshopped with the Irish prison rehabilitation service Pathways, Michael Inside charts how easily hopelessness, poverty and prejudice can create a pipeline that leads young men towards prison – and can draw families into cycles of debt and crime. Berry’s film addresses these issues subtly, focusing on the intimately carved journey of his characters. Stunningly acted and provoking endless important questions, it is a tense portrait of a damaged system, and the boys we lose to it. Also worth seeing for its portrayal of mental health issues in Dublin working class estates is director Frank Berry’s I Used To Live Here. Superbly shot in Tallaght, with its devastated open spaces, and small houses, it also features an epic journey into the city centre by female lead Jordanne Jones (see also Page XX for interview), as Amy.
What Richard Did (Dir. Lenny Abrahamson, 2013)
Possessing a keen eye for class divides, social mores and isolated individuals, director Lenny Abrahamson (Adam And Paul, Garage) turns his eye to Celtic Tiger cubs. Very loosely based on Kevin Power’s novel Bad Day In Blackrock – a fictionalised account of the Club Anabel killing of 2000 – the film is not only a devastating exploration of guilt and entitlement, but also a telling tale of our time. Jack Reynor plays the eponymous Richard, a charismatic young rugby player who swans through parties, romantic interactions and parental lunches in leafy Dublin suburbs with aplomb. As his life is explored, the exquisitely naturalistic, keenly observed and largely improvised script gives a biting insight into the mindset of a generation. The dark side of this entitlement and group-think is revealed when tragedy strikes and omertà sets in. As the second act sees Richard wrestle with his conscience, What Richard Did becomes a psychologically complex morality play. Beautifully shot against the backdrop of well-to-do Southside locales, including Ballsbridge, Leeson Street and Baggot Street, where the Bank of Ireland building can be spotted, Abrahamson’s film never judges its characters – it merely tells their tale, and the result is a stunning and humanistic tragedy. Dubliners will recognise UCD as the location for the university scenes at the end.
Once (Dir. John Carney, 2007)
To capture the romantic, nomadic and musical atmosphere of John Carney’s heart-wrenching love story Once, take a day to wander around Dublin city. Start in Stephen’s Green, where an opportunistic thief tries to steal Glen Hansard’s guitar, and wander slowly down Grafton Street, where Hansard’s character and Marketa Irglova’s young woman meet and walk. Turn onto George’s Street and visit the location of the now departed Walton’s (69 South Great George’s Street, D2), the iconic music shop where they first play the Oscar-winning love song ‘Falling Slowly’. A branch of the Danish homestore outlet, Søstrene Grene, has since opened there. Afterwards, visit stately but run-down Mountjoy Square, with its signature Georgian architecture and brightly painted doors, where Irglova’s character resides. Finally, take a stroll on Killiney Hill, where Irglova tells Hansard she loves him – but it’s in Czech, so he doesn’t understand. Get ready for some swooning.
Intermission (Dir. John Crowley, 2003)
This superb black comedy, written by Mark O’Rowe and directed by John Crowley, features a multi-layered story with intersecting plot-lines. This not only gave the director an excuse to jam-pack his film with great Irish actors like Cillian Murphy, Colin Farrell, Colm Meaney and Michael McElhatton, but also allowed it to roam around Dublin to great effect. Locations include Rathfarnham Shopping Centre, the Canal Lock, the Dublin mountains and, of course, a Dublin bus route. Cillian Murphy plays a supermarket worker desperately trying to win back his ex-girlfriend (while downing copious amounts of tea with brown sauce); and Colin Farrell portrays petty criminal Lehiff, who gives us an iconic chase through Rathfarnham Shopping Centre in one of the most brilliantly unexpected, outrageous and hilarious opening scenes we’ve ever seen. His machismo-laden battles with Garda Jerry Lynch (Colm Meaney), meanwhile, are another highlight.
Ordinary Decent Criminal (Dir. Thaddeus O’Sullivan. 2000)
Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s 2000 retelling of the Martin Cahill story stars Kevin Spacey as Michael Lynch (an obvious version of The General), an intimidating criminal mastermind controlling a network of criminals and gangs across Dublin,,and also features Colin Farrell in one of his first visible roles! The film offers a fascinating glimpse into the machinations of criminal organisations, with the Gardai in hot pursuit. It offers a different and varied view of Dublin, with key moments taking place in benefits offices, art galleries, and hidden getaways. There’s a hilarious jump onto an open-top bus shot on Wilton Terrace, near the statue of Patrick Kavanagh. A pivotal scene which literally shows the gang dividing up and going different directions takes place on Dublin’s famous Ha’penny Bridge, where Michael crosses the Liffey, away from his former peers and confidantes, the growing rift in the gang becoming wider. It is a great use of this historic, centre-city landmark, which also features memorably in the marvellous video for Philip Lynott’s ‘Old Town.’
Agnes Browne (Dir. Anjelica Huston, 1999)
Now even more poignant and nostalgic given the closure of Clery’s (1 O’Connell Street Upper, D1), a pivotal scene in Anjelica Huston’s second directorial effort takes place in what was the oldest department store in Dublin. Eyeing up a dress in the window, Huston’s character is allowed to dream of a life more glamourous than her current one, which is based around the unique and eccentric Moore Street markets, where the tight-knit community of traders forms her social circle. The Clery’s clock also makes a vital appearance when Huston’s character has a flirtatious interaction with fellow trader Pierre; an exchange that’s heightened by the reputation of the clock as being the meeting place for young lovers – as documented also in The Radiators From Space’s acclaimed song ‘Under Clery’s Clock’. With both Clery’s and Moore Street acting as characters in the film, it is a love letter to the Northside of the city centre.
Michael Collins (Dir. Neil Jordan, 1996)
Neil Jordan’s 1996 film doesn’t attempt to romanticise Dublin city, or present it as a character in the film. Instead, Jordan takes iconic locations like O’Connell Street and the GPO and presents them as the terrifying battlegrounds that they became during both the 1916 Rising and the events depicted in the film, which largely takes place in 1922. The impressive and imposing GPO, complete with bullet marks from the Rising, casts a literal and figurative shadow over the film’s action, showing how the bloody battle for independence darkened the emotional landscape of the city. It also focuses on the Four Courts, and the battle that takes place there between the IRA and the Provisional Government. Fascinatingly, the Croke Park scenes were shot at the Carlisle Grounds in Bray – just outside Dublin in Co. Wicklow – which is home to the Bray Wanderers football club.
My Left Foot (Dir. Jim Sheridan, 1989)
The film that scored Daniel Day-Lewis his first Best Actor Oscar win remains one of the all-time best screen depictions of a person suffering with a physical disability – indeed it may well be one of cinema’s greatest performances. Day-Lewis plays the Crumlin-born, cerebral palsy-affected artist Christy Brown. His performance is astonishingly powerful, matching transformative technique to lacerating inner anguish. This acting masterclass was also hugely influential, showing a generation of aspiring thesps how full-bodied the craft could be. Dublin plays its part too. The opening scene sees Christy’s father Paddy get into a row, shot in the famous hostelry that is Mulligan’s (8 Poolbeg Street, D2) – a home from home for Irish Press journalists as long as the paper was published. There is also a scene shot in the wonderful Lock’s Restaurant (1 Windsor Terrace, Portobello, D8) on the Grand Canal.
The Commitments (Dir. Alan Parker, 1991)
Alan Parker’s hilarious adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s novel about a Dublin soul band is set in the fictitious ‘Barrytown’, based on Kilbarrack, and was filmed in both Dublin’s Northside and the city centre. For one of the only real Kilbarrack locations, visit the area’s DART station, where Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) convinces Outspan and Derek that they should play ‘Dublin Soul’. Also featured in a moment of missionary zeal on Jimmy’s part are the little known steps on Bella Street, in Mountjoy. Meanwhile, to recreate the opening scene where Jimmy tries to offload cassettes and t-shirts, visit St Laurence O’Toole Church (Sheriff Street, D1). Other places of Commitments pilgrimage include the Palace nightclub – now transformed in to Planet Murphy’s and Jimmy Rabbitte’s (84-87 Camden Street, D2), where the band rehearses, and the Croften Bray Head Inn (8 Coastguard Terrace, Bray), where Jimmy first hears the powerful and alcohol-fuelled voice of Deco Cuffe. There is also a scene in the cobbled street of Temple Lane South, in Temple Bar. Other Roddy Doyle movies that show the streets of Dublin to great effect are The Van, in which Kilbarrack again features in the shape of The Foxhound Inn (5 Greendale Road, Donaghmede, D5) – and The Snapper. In the latter, the trip to the hospital to deliver the titular Snapper involves a drive around Northside Dublin, while The Cedar Lounge (30 St Assam’s Park, Raheny, D5) also features.
Sing Street (Dir. John Carney, 2016)
Once director John Carney returned to the streets of his home-town to shoot his third feature, the endearing 80s-set triumph Sing Street. The semi-autobiographical film follows fish-out-of-water Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) as he is moved from a posh private school to the more menacing environment of Dublin’s inner-city. There he meets aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and is immediately inspired to form a band to impress her. The title is a pun on Dublin’s Synge Street CBS (Synge Street, D8). In 1984/85, Carney spent a year attending the notorious Christian Brothers secondary school, where much of the movie is set. The movie is interspersed with music videos shot by Conor and his bandmates throughout the city and its suburbs, including the Duran Duran-influenced ‘Riddle Of The Model’ at St. Catherine’s Park (Hanbury Lane, Saint Catherine’s Lane West, D8), and the Cure-influenced ‘A Beautiful Sea’ at Dún Laoghaire Harbour. Other memorable scenes are shot in such disparate locations as the stunningly picturesque Dalkey Island, where Conor and Raphina watch the car ferry leaving Dun Laoghaire for the UK, and the inner-city café at the heart of Dublin’s Liberties district, Fusco’s (27 Meath Street, D8).