The Irish shine at Tribeca Film Festival - 'Byzantium', 'What Richard Did' and 'Run and Jump' reviewed


“He’s going on to bigger things now as the star of the new 'Transformers' film, and he’s done another DreamWorks film in the meantime. I can’t take the credit for his performance.

“With Michael Fassbender I was working with a very different kind of actor. You know you’re looking at the finished article. What he has probably more than anybody around at the moment is an incredible presence and charisma. 

“Working on 'Frank' was an unusual project as he spends an awful lot of the film with his face hidden by this plastic fake head. Even given that, he’s still an incredibly strong presence on screen which is a testament to just how charismatic he is that that comes through.”

Another new Irish feature that wowed critics at Tribeca is 'Byzantium,' clearly Jordan’s most heartfelt and accomplished film in over two decades featuring a great performance from Saoirse Ronan, whose presence and acting skill turns this quietly affecting film into a completely absorbing meditation on love, life and death, and the endless quest to make it all mean something. 

As the film opens we meet Eleanor (Ronan), who after 200 years of immortality as a teenage vampire finally finds someone she can tell her story to. It’s a welcome but dangerous confession though, because once people know it her life is immediately in danger. 

Ronan owns the role, which sees her join the distinguished company of Fassbender and Reynor as one of the most accomplished Irish actors of her generation. 

There’s a scene early on in the film in a seaside hotel that has become a sort of rest home for the elderly where Eleanor plays the piano (Ronan learned how to play it for the scene). All of her character’s history and yearning is conveyed in her haunted expression. 

I expected a solid effort from Jordan on a supernatural theme he has returned to often (he’s obsessed with the way people can become trapped or freed by stories, their own or someone else’s) but I did not expect a career defining statement from the master Irish director. 

As Eleanor’s mother, actress Gemma Arterton also delivers a star turn as an unexpectedly compassionate and charismatic vampire to Ronan’s tear away teenage daughter. Arterton’s vampire only preys on abusers and bullies, on men who torment others for profit or sport. She does this as revenge on the cruel men who ruined her own life, and to protect the weak from the unjust. 

It’s a nice twist on the usual blood sucking monster theme, and that it works as well as it does is down to the two principal actresses who develop a credible mother-daughter relationship onscreen. 

Meanwhile, 'Run and Jump' is Oscar nominated director Steph Green’s engagingly original bad romance film (Green was nominated for 'New Boy,' the brilliant short film based on a Roddy Doyle story). 

The film opens after a stroke leaves a young Irish housewife’s husband fundamentally changed. She’s left to pick up the pieces in the wake of an unmendable tragedy. 

Into their lives comes the buttoned down American doctor Ted Fielding (played by 'Saturday Night Live' veteran Will Forte) who wants to document the family’s recovery process. 

At first the spirited young Vanetia (played with flawless Irish accent work by English actress Maxine Peake) resents Ted’s presence in their lives, but soon enough she’s strangely taken with him – as much as he is with her Irish charisma. 

In the midst of one family a new family begins to emerge. It’s the most quietly affecting exploration of Irish family life that I’ve seen this year.