Irish films, directors, and stars are on the ascent as never before internationally. From buzzed-about Oscar shoo-ins to low-budget indie triumphs, the scale and reach of Irish culture is increasingly off the charts.

A decade ago, Ireland reminded Hollywood that it's one of the world's best film and television shooting locations. Shows like "Game Of Thrones," "The Tudors," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," and more put us firmly on the map and in rotation again for the major studios, who celebrated the wealth of Irish talent onscreen and off.

Ten years later, there are now more Irish A-List actors than there have ever been. Not only that, but Irish screenwriters, documentary filmmakers, and feature film directors have seen their careers become top-flight. It's not bad going for a country that's about the size of South Carolina. 

2022 was the breakout year for newcomer Paul Mescal, 26, Co Kildare's own bonafide film star. Coming to prominence first in director Lenny Abrahamson's Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney's "Normal People" in 2020, his big-screen turns this year in "Aftersun" and "God's Creatures" prove he's a first-rate screen actor with that rare balance of toughness and sensitivity that makes his performances so riveting to watch.

It would be hard to choose between his work in both films, or the delicate performances of his co-stars, but "Aftersun" was one of the most quietly affecting films this reviewer has seen in a decade, and the reason for it was Mescal's haunted and haunting performance as a young man who might be approaching the end of his rope. 

No one does onscreen melancholy quite like the Irish, and whether that's a good thing or a bad thing can be debated, but the results in scene after scene can not. Mescal is so good you'll find yourself going over and over the subtleties of what he was saying and doing long after you leave the theatre, which is the highest compliment I have ever paid an actor.

In "God's Creatures" he plays a prodigal son who has his doting mother (Emily Watson) wrapped too tightly around his fingers. Coming home just as dramatically as he once left, it quickly becomes apparent that the apple of her eye might not be as wholesome as she seems to think.

Paul Mescal and Emily Watson in God's Creatures

Paul Mescal and Emily Watson in God's Creatures

Another indelible performance this year belongs to a career that's already full of them. Colin Farrell, 46, plays a cast-off friend in Martin McDonagh's rueful comedy-drama "The Banshees Of Inisherin."

Squaring off in scene after scene against the equally formidable Brendan Gleeson, Farrell's hangdog face nevertheless manages to steal the film out from under the entire assembled cast of heavy hitters.

If McDonagh's film pushes its central themes past their breaking points, and I would suggest it does, it nevertheless provides Farrell with a role that he rescues from caricature by the sheer strength of his own screen presence. 

Whilst the script often seems to wonder if the sudden betrayal of a friendship is comedy or tragedy, Farrell leaves us in no doubt himself, throughout the film, his face is like a mask of anguish made all the more poignant by the inexplicability of what has happened to him. 

Regardless of what you finally think of the film itself (I thought it sour, sad, and uncertain in its final reel) there is no doubting the artistry of Farrell's performance, which is being rightly tipped for an Oscar nomination.

Meanwhile, Saoirse Ronan, 28, appeared opposite Sam Rockwell this year in "See How They Run," an atmospheric romp about a West End murder mystery show where a real-life member of the cast is dramatically bumped off.

It was a huge shift in tone from her most recent starring roles and probably undertaken in exactly that spirit. Ronan reminds us she's also a comic actress when the right script comes along, and this under-the-radar film played to her strengths.

Ronan will appear opposite Mescal in the much-awaited 2023 sci-fi thriller "Foe," which is set slightly in the future, “after severe climate change has ruined most farmland.” A young farmer and his wife struggle on one of the last remaining farms until a knock on the door changes everything.

Ronan and Mescal play the young couple, whose lives are upended once Mescal's character is selected to travel to a large, experimental space station that's orbiting the earth. 

Before you ask, Mescal's character isn't given a choice and Ronan's character won't be left behind on her own, meaning she will soon have to make a life-altering decision. It sounds like a tense, pulse-pounding show and another huge hit for the Irish stars in their first film together.

Immigration into Ireland is currently being weaponized by the far right in Dublin, just like everywhere else, and a new Irish film titled Aisha, with a release date yet to be announced tackles how it looks at home.

Starring Josh O'Connor as an Irish security guard and Letitia Wright (best known for Black Panther) as the title character "Aisha," a young Nigerian woman in her 20's living in an Irish hostel in the hope of work and citizenship, the film's themes couldn't be more timely. 

O'Connor plays Conor Healy, a direct provision employee who breaks company rules to spend time with Aisha in the hope of finding out what happened to her and her family, and why she feels her life would be in danger if she were ever to return to Nigeria. 

Director Frank Berry has an eye for the absurdities that surround Aisha's immigration journey and the dangers and pitfalls that can unmoor it. O'Connor is the audience's way into the perilous journey she has made and why Ireland offers her a fresh start and would be lucky to have her.

When was the last time you saw an Irish-language film submitted for Oscar consideration? Well, this year "An Cailín Ciúin" ("The Quiet Girl)" has been selected by the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) as Ireland's entry for the Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards 2023.

Based on Irish author Claire Keegan's masterful short story "Foster," "The Quiet Girl" is about a young girl who is sent to live with foster parents on a farm in rural Ireland. To her surprise she finds a warmth and affection there she has previously never known and she comes to life for the first time under their care.

Already "An Cailín Ciúin" ("The Quiet Girl") has become the most successful Irish language film ever, critically and commercially, and it's an indication of a new level of cultural confidence on the world stage that should be warmly welcomed. This powerfully understated new film announces the arrival of a host of new talents, including newcomer Catherine Clinch, the quiet girl of the title.

Finally, Paul Mescal and Josh O'Connor will play World War I era lovers in "The History Of Sound." The BAFTA and Emmy winners' roles are based on characters from the Pushcart Prize-winning story by American author Ben Shattuck.

The new film will follow the pair as they set out to record the lives, voices, and music of their countrymen for the first time. The official description of the forthcoming reads: “In this snatched, short-lived moment in their young lives, and while discovering the epic sweep of the U.S., both men are deeply changed.”