Telling the story of a rough night out for a luckless romantic named Bee, I Didn't...I Wasn't...I Amn't... is a raw and real look at working-class Dublin life and love
Laoisa Sexton is one of the brightest talents to hit the Irish film writing and directing scene in years.
In her new short film 'I Didn't..I Wasn't...I Amn't...' (which will have its US premiere at the historic Lowes in Jersey City on September 21) she takes a two by four to sentimental depictions of Irish courtship in a beautifully observed film that crackles with wit and sharpness.
Adapted from her New York Times five star recommended play 'For Love', the new film 'I Didn't...I Wasn't...I Amn't...' takes her character Bee on an epic ride through working-class North Dublin with a married man whose infant daughter is strapped into a car seat behind her.
As romantic overtures go, this is the deadest of dead ends. And yet, as performed by (Game of Thrones) actor Aidan Gillen and Sexton herself, there's an unexpected sweetness underneath all this sordid grasping and the contrasts really make you laugh.
What 'I Didn't..I Wasn't...I Amn't...' excels at is depicting Irish people who think they are in control of their lives but who really are not. Bee is in over her head and Aidan (played by Aidan) only wants a cheap bit of adultery, but he can't help having real feelings for the young woman he's picked up – or can he?
“I don't think he’s as desperate as she is,” Gillen tells IrishCentral. “Although he must be a bit desperate if he’s getting off with ladies with the baby in the backseat. The whole thing is a bit unnerving for him I suppose and I don't know that its habitual, never thought about it too much, is this a man who keeps things chaotic around him? Outside of that a lot of people love being told exactly what to do, it takes a lot of the anxiety out of everyday life. It's how dictators get into positions power isn’t it?”
Onscreen we can hear Bee's thoughts as she's being wooed and they range from what am I doing to I could jump out of this car at the next stoplight and he won't be able to stop me. Not exactly the height of romance, so.
But Aidan is in over his head too and his chancer nature is revealed by the story he weaves about the elephants calling from nearby Dublin zoo and later the whales in Dublin Bay.
“The elephants and whales are oft used chat-up routines by that character because I think he’s a serial cad,” says Gillen. “The girls love it. I asked a friend of mine who grew up near the zoo in Dublin what he thought of this routine and whether it would work and he was sorry he hadn’t thought of it when he was 16.”
Both of these characters are desperate and they know that they are, so is there a weird sort of freedom in being completely trapped? “I love that they meet (for a hookup) in his car, which is sort of restricting in its own way but freeing in another, depending on the way you look at it,” Sexton says.
“It might sound cringy but he means it when he talks about elephants and whales and yes he is nailing her with this talk, too. I also love the symbolism of her red hooded jacket and her black hair, she's Little Red Riding and he's the wolf in his lair (in this case his BMW).”
Some film festivals can't get past the film's sexual content, which all things considered, is mild enough. Are Irish films a bit weird about sex? “Funny you should say that as we have got turned down by a few festivals for being too “explicit” which I don't think is true, but it confused me for sure.”
“Women's sexual lives are not explored in the Irish landscape of film, in fact Irish films tend to avoid sex altogether as if it weren't part of life, unless its something that should be frowned upon or punished - as if it were shameful - maybe its the Catholic aftershock – I'm not sure what is wrong with us. I'm French anyway (adopted by Irish parents) so maybe that's why I'm fine with it, hah!”
It's easy to point the finger at other people's hypocrisy, but harder to look at your own, the film reminds us - would you agree with that to any extent? “Yes, I am glad you picked up on this, as this was my whole modus operandi for writing it.”
There's a brilliant use of Joe Dolan song in the film. It's the first time I've heard him in an Irish film (considering how big he was, why isn't he used more?) “I’d definitely use Joe Dolan if I was making my own movies,” says Gillen.
“I have seen him put to good use by Morrissey on stage, he played Good Looking Woman by Joe Dolan track alongside Jet Boy by New York Dolls. I’ve actually expressed interest in playing Joe Dolan in the past, interesting cat.”
Meanwhile, are female Irish filmmakers and writers getting the support they deserve?
“I can only really speak for myself here,” says Sexton. “I have not been supported in Ireland for any of my work, at least by anyone who could help me in terms of funding. I find support in other ways. Like all the beautiful people who contributed to the crowdfunding campaign or like Aidan Gillen agreeing to do a no-budget short film because he liked the script, that is all support of the biggest kind.”
Now she is delighted to premiere her film at in New York at the Golden Door Film Festival on September 21. Paging all potential producers and investors, I have seen I Didn't..I Wasn't...I Amn't... and it's time to support this outstanding Irish talent.
But in the meantime book your tickets for the premiere at The Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre on Saturday 21 in Jersey City. For tickets visit gdifftickets.org.