lakelands review

Lakelands review | Love and loss chafe in small-town Ireland

Masculinity, romance, and family all jostle for centre stage in Lakelands, which boasts commendable performances but is hindered by its slow pace.


Masculinity, romance, and family all jostle for centre stage in Lakelands, which boasts commendable performances but is hindered by its slow pace. Read our Lakelands review.

Irish drama Lakelands is directed by the promising duo Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney, the second Irish co-directed picture I’ve watched in a month, after enduring the incoherent God’s Creatures (dir. Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer) over Easter with my mum.

Main man Cian, played by the captivating Éanna Hardwicke, is a young Gaelic football player who finds his world upended when he’s severely beaten by thugs in an alleyway behind a nightclub in Granard, County Longford. He is subsequently sidelined from the team due to the injuries he sustains and loses his sense of purpose, spiralling into substance abuse. 

But all is not lost. Cian then rekindles a relationship with his former love interest, Grace, in search of a path to redemption. 

While presenting some intriguing traits, Lakelands struggles with a slow pace and a certain reluctance, making it difficult to empathise with the lead character. Clearly, the filmmakers are attempting to avoid conventional storytelling traps, but they’d have done better to embrace them instead. 

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The result is a piece that may disengage viewers with its frustrating lack of depth in both plot and character development. The exception to this is the tender relationship between Cian and Grace, played by the magnetic Danielle Galligan. The chemistry between the two leads is palpable, and their subplot adds a much-needed emotional layer to the film.

lakelands review

Cian and Grace

The cinematography by Simon Crowe and the score by Daithi deserve praise, as they capture the essence of rural Ireland and provide a fitting atmosphere for the story. The cast delivers commendable performances, particularly Hardwicke (reminiscent of a young Richard Harris), Galligan, and Lorcan Cranitch as Cian’s estranged father. These actors navigate complex emotions and relationships with skill, despite needing to be backed by a particularly robust script.

One of the film’s greatest strengths is its ability to portray the loss that comes with an unexpected injury, particularly when it threatens a person’s identity and connection to their community, like an Irish adaptation of the US high school American football drama Friday Night Lights. Higgins and McGivney capture this theme with an authenticity that suggests personal experience, making the story resonate on a deeper level.

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Lorcan Crantich’s fatherly performance brings a certain rural authenticity, and Gary Lydon’s portrayal of the football coach exhibits hardened compassion. Yet, for all these rich performances, Lakelands struggles with a sparseness that often leaves too much unsaid. As genuine as this taciturn quality may be, it detracts from the film’s overall impact.

Lakelands uniquely examines masculinity, sports, and family drama, showcasing solid performances and a distinctive, evocative atmosphere. However, the slow pace and lack of depth in certain story aspects prevent it from flourishing. Nonetheless, it remains a commendable effort by the talented duo of Higgins and McGivney, who have crafted an authentic and intimate portrait of the challenges those in small-town Ireland face.

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