Americans visit Ireland for many reasons, to see the mythic landscape, to drink a perfect Guinness, to walk the Cliffs of Moher, and sometimes to fall in love with a stranger.
In 'Finding You' actress Rose Reid does all of these things, as well as getting swept off her feet by a moonlighting movie star played by Jedidiah Goodacre.
The story begins when young violinist Finley Sinclair (Rose Reid) hits a significant speed bump trying to get into a prestigious New York music conservatory. Finley has technique for days but no real passion in her playing, which means that she flunks the audition and starts to think about a plan B.
But then, inspired by her late brother's trip to Ireland and the life-transforming effect it had on him, she decides to follow in his footsteps in the hope of finding some of the inner peace that he once had and that she craves.
Before you can say this is a pretty hoary setup Finley is booking her trip to an Irish coastal village to begin her semester studying abroad. On the plane (Aer Lingus, natch) she is bumped up to premium class by a kindly flight attendant with a hidden agenda. Within moments she finds herself sitting next to young movie star Beckett Rush, who is heading over for a location shoot and is very chatty.
Finley is a well-brought-up young lady who isn't too impressed with Hollywood types or their celebrity affairs and so she doesn't just play hard to get, she actively deflects his attentions. Opening an entertainment magazine on the flight confirms her suspicions, Beckett is splashed all over the pages cavorting half-naked with a host of actresses.
This isn't meet cute so much as dead in the water and so the two actors play a game of cat and mouse with the understanding that they will never see each other again. Both can see potential in each other but both can see their worlds collide and mutually decide to go their separate ways.
At the airport, Finley meets up with her host family who runs a gorgeous B&B by the water. Derry Girls Saoirse Monica Jackson is the daughter of the house, and soon Finley is pressed into service as a waitress when they're short-staffed. By unwittingly serving Beckett his breakfast she discovers he's a secret guest (to avoid the press who expect him at the local Four Seasons).
WATCH: An exclusive clip from the new Irish romantic comedy Finding You!— IrishCentral (@IrishCentral) May 12, 2021
Set in Ireland, this is likely to become your new favorite Irish rom-com 🍀 All the detail on when it'll be released you can read here: https://t.co/nsOWUOeLcK#irish #FindingYou #Ireland pic.twitter.com/WlJC70aiOJ
Beckett is in town to film another installment of his Game of Thrones-like medieval fantasy-adventure franchise. Finley is in town to find herself and her passion. Fireworks are imminent, only things keep taking unpredictable turns.
As the Irish landscape works its magic on the unlikely pair, Beckett begins his own journey of discovery alongside Finley'a that transforms both of their outlooks on life. It's inevitable because Beckett wants to reach beyond his teen-idol image and like Finley pursue his own real passion. But this is a romantic comedy so pretty soon both star-crossed lovers must decide what they are willing to risk for love?
Quite a few things set Finding You apart from the usual light-hearted Irish romantic fare, for a start, it isn't always so light-hearted. One of the film's secret weapons is Vanessa Redgrave, whose flawless Irish accent and straight-talking sensibility is a thing to marvel at. Redgrave plays Cathleen, one half of a decades-long feud between sister and one-time romantic rival Nora (Fiona Bell).
This being small-town Ireland it isn't long before we learn that Cathleen reportedly stole sister Nora's fiancee in the long ago, a humiliation that neither Nora nor the town have forgiven or forgotten. If you have guessed where this is heading well of course Finley is soon tasked with the huge challenge of getting angry old Cathleen to talk candidly about her life for a school project, a task that threatens to overwhelm Finley from the outset.
Redgrave brings a level of reality to the proceedings that really break through the Hallmark Channel shenanigans, raising the stakes for the film and her fellow actors. One bad decision can unmoor your whole life her character reminds Finley (and us) so she's the signpost that Finley is rowing away from (and towards) as the film progresses.
As Emma, the spirited young woman of the house at the B&B Finely is staying at, Saoirse Monica Jackson does a lot with a little role. Cast as a one-woman Greek chorus, she's the audiences' eyes and ears and at times their hopes too as the on again off again courtship of Finley and Beckett limps and other times sprints along.
It's clear that Jackson has been cast for her Derry Girls sidekick skills, but at 27 it's a tougher sell to play a silly teen. Nevertheless, she takes on each scene with the spirited stylings that have made her famous.
Now, the question the Irish will want answered is does Finding You make a holy show of us? Well, it does and it doesn't. On the minus side, there is an alcoholic fiddler with a twinkle in his eye, there are location shots the tourist board will love, and there colorful locals being colorful, but on the plus side the two leads give their all to their respective roles and their love for the land their filming in is clearly sincere and contagious.
Reid and Goodacre are sensitive to the beats of a romantic comedy but they mine the darker truths of Irish life and their own hearts to make this the least offensive example of an American Irish awakening tale I have yet seen. It's because they know the pitfalls that they largely avoid them.
Will purists say it's all a bunch of sentimental "paddywhackery"? Yes, but they would say that in any case. Until the Irish themselves start making these transformed by an Irish community films instead of their endless crime land shoot em' up's we will just have to deal with it, won't we?
One day someone will make a romantic comedy film set in Ireland that doesn't lean heavily into colorful locals with their eccentric ways, but Finding You isn't quite it, nor does it really want to be. Instead, it says Ireland is an ideal place to uncover the innermost secrets of your heart, and sure there are already a hundred Irish poets behind them who would agree with that.
Finding You opens in theaters May 14.