This little film is a balm for the soul... because it’s so Cork ‘like’

As its success continues to grow, AILIN QUINLAN tells us what she loved about The Young Offenders.
This little film is a balm for the soul... because it’s so Cork ‘like’

UNFORGETTABLE: A scene from ‘The Young Offenders’ featuring main actors Alex Murphy and Chris Walley

AREN’T you just about sick to your back teeth of hearing Irish kids talk like they’d just flown in from the Napa Valley? In deepest West Cork, remotest Clare, or the furthest corner of the field in far Donegal you’ll hear children rattling away in that bland accent sticking that annoying up-tilt onto the end of every sentence. So shoot me for being racist!

It’s ludicrous — they are not American. Their parents are not American. These kids have never even been to America. They usually won’t even know any Americans. They just listen to American programmes non-stop on the telly. They may live in Ireland but they’re drowning in American culture.

So for me, and for anyone else with a strong pride in Irish, and particularly, local, culture, merely watching The Young Offenders — fast, hyper-witty and hilarious to the bone — gives you a boost. The film is balm to the soul of anyone worried about the impact of globalisation. And not just my soul — this little Cork film with the big loud Cork accent has become a global sensation which, it’s been reported, is even spawning spin-offs in countries like Spain and India.

Gratifying showings on the international film festival round, a Netflix release, a collection of justifiably rave reviews and a prestigious award — not bad for a debut feature whose writer/director Peter Foott picked up the very well-deserved gong for Best Script in Film at the recent IFTAS.

I’ll tell you why I loved it. The rapid-fire repartee — a hallmark of Corkonians. The blistering sarcasm that’s so much a part of Irish conversation. The eye-watering insults we all love to throw at each other. The completely credible bully-cum-mad-fella and his two cowering cowardly friends. The bike-thievery. The imagination and sheer edge behind the whole masks skullduggery at the start of the film. The sheer unutterable outlaw joy of the whole thing.

It was so Cork. It was so what we should be proud of. And many of us were proud.

Let’s face it — you could have a conversation in the middle of some Hollywood blockbusters and still effortlessly catch up with the plot half an hour down the road.

But anyone watching The Young Offenders just has to sit up, shut up and listen. If you don’t, you risk missing some of the best bits as they whiz side-splittingly past.

The narrative arrows of The Young Offenders come at you with all the speed and momentum of a juggernaut at full throttle, leaving you with aching stomach muscles and tears rolling down your face.

We watched it twice, the second, and most thought-provoking time, in the company of an American teenager who happened to be visiting the ‘ould sod where his parents grew up. We thought that, given the fact that this young fellow had spent all of his life on Yankee soil, he simply mightn’t ‘get’ the speed-of-light digs and the scorching sarcasm which is so much part of the conversation in the film, but those Cork genes won the day. He loved it. He laughed til he cried. He said he’d never in his life seen anything like it.

And that’s what really made me think; you know what — we’re not half proud enough of who we are. Either as Cork people or as Irish people. Mahon Point Omniplex reported that the movie was the highest-grossing film of 2016, beating guess what, blockbuster like Star Wars Rogue One. And if you ask me that was all down to one thing. This film was Cork to the backbone. It was completely authentic. The characters were spot on — bar, of course, the cartoonish drug dealer with the nail gun and the over-the-top avenging garda.

The unashamed authenticity of the boys’ characters as played by Chris Walley and Alex Murphy, not to mention the mother, played by Hilary Rose, utterly made the movie. Those completely Cork accents. Their homes. The bedrooms, Their swagger, their clothes. The customers at the fish-stall in The English Market. The overweight grumpy Garda sergeant with the chocolate bar in his drawer who wanted to keep his cells for real criminals, not teenage bike thieves.

Then there was the fantastic urban and rural environment in which the film was shot — scenes we all know and love so well from the city — the English market, the Grand Parade and the utterly glorious sea views and countryside scenes direct from West Cork. How proud we were just to sit back and watch it.

Hilary Rose, who plays the good-looking, rapid-fire, if somewhat foul-mouthed, mother described the response to the film as a bit overwhelming . It should have been overwhelming. This film is something to be proud of. And rightly so. And why?

This is a film which celebrates authentic Cork. We, the Irish are generally far too darn quick to tone down our accents and be shy about who we are. As a race we’re too often not quite comfortable in our own skins. We always assume that people from elsewhere know better and are better than us. But you know what? The Young Offenders is Cork born and Cork bred and loudly and unashamedly proud of being Cork.

In a culture and society which celebrates same-ness, a world where bland globalism rules, where a high street in Spain looks the same as the shopfronts of Dublin; in a world where teens agonise over their image on social media — how they look, what they sound like, what they’re wearing and who they are — here’s a film that doesn’t worry about any of that rubbish. The Young Offenders is not just comfortable in its own skin. It’s proud of living in it. Keep it up Peter Foott — we need more of you, and we need more like you.

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