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A Preview of the Toronto Irish Film Festival

March 6, 2015

By John Corrado

Gold PosterThe fifth annual Toronto Irish Film Festival is happening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this weekend, showcasing a solid lineup of four narrative films that all range from good to great.  Things kick off this evening with the Toronto premiere of Standby, which will have lead actor Brian Gleeson in attendance for a Q&A.

The festivities will continue throughout Saturday with an encore screening of Good Vibrations and the city premiere of Gold, all three of which are reviewed below.  There will also be a special presentation of the gritty and intense thriller ’71, which I reviewed at TIFF and is opening in limited release next weekend.

Tickets and showtimes for the festival can be found right here.

Standby: When Alan (Brian Gleeson), a travel agent unhappy with his job, has a chance encounter with his ex-girlfriend Alice (Jessica Paré), the two spend the night together in Dublin, reconnecting and trying to figure out if they can make things work after their fling eight summers ago.  Borrowing from Richard Linklater’s untouchably great Before trilogy, Standby follows a formula that has been done many times before, but the film does so in such a charming and enjoyable way, that we don’t really mind travelling the predictable path.  With some nicely written scenes, and a thoroughly likeable performance from Brian Gleeson, this is a sweet little film that delivers exactly what you expect and want from a quiet romance.

Friday, March 6th – 7:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Good Vibrations: At the height of religious and political conflicts in the 1970s, Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) opened a small record shop in Belfast, and ended up signing some of the best punk rock bands of the time.  Pouring all of his money and resources into getting them heard, Terri became known as the “Godfather of Punk,” and was instrumental in developing Northern Island’s music scene.  Although the narrative sometimes feels more like an overview of his story, Good Vibrations is still a well made and pretty entertaining musical biopic, that succeeds thanks to a solid performance from Richard Dormer, as well as some stylish editing and an excellent soundtrack.  There are some very good scenes here, and the best moments come over the genuinely rousing finale, when the film fully embraces its place as a soaring celebration of the raw energy of punk rock, and the importance of music amidst the Troubles.

Saturday, March 7th – 3:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Gold: After getting out of the psychiatric hospital, the depressed Ray (David Wilmot) returns home to visit his dying father and reunite with his estranged teenage daughter Abby (Maisie Williams).  But his arrival shakes up the family life she has with her mother (Kerry Condon), and highly competitive running coach stepfather (James Nesbitt).  Director Niall Heery has delivered something truly special with Gold, an incredibly likeable film that has undertones of such classics as Little Miss Sunshine and The Royal Tenenbaums.  There is real growth and depth on display here, and Ray’s journey to reconnect with his daughter is both endearingly desperate and genuinely moving.  With an exceptionally well balanced screenplay that affectively mixes both quirky humour and heartfelt pathos, this is a near-perfect coming of age film, that soars on the strength of the characters, and boasts standout work from David Wilmot and Maisie Williams.  From first to last scene, Gold is an absolutely wonderful small gem.

Saturday, March 7th – 8:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

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