If you have Irish heritage, or plan on dying someday, this film is for you – so basically everyone!! The film is a hoot!!! It is very quick, very entertaining. Even though it is English, there are subtitles to understand the Irish brogue. You learn a little bit of history, you also learn how history repeats itself! Everyone of us has been a child, and in love, and made the wrong decision, and the right ones. Most of us mourn the death of someone, question the whys and the hows, this can relate to all matters. Regardless what era you live in, the human plight is very similar.
A heartfelt piece of work, sensitively filmed and beautifully shot.
The film swells with poignancy, wisdom and humour.
The film features thirty men and women aged 100 years and over. Often funny and at times poignant, the film explores each centenarian’s journey, from their birth at the dawn of Irish independence to their life as a centenarian in modern day Ireland. Having witnessed a century of immense social, political and technological change each centenarian has a unique perspective on life and its true meaning. From the oldest Irish person ever on record, 113-year-old Kathleen Snavely to Ireland’s oldest man, 108-year-old Luke Dolan we meet a colourful cast of characters, from all walks of life, from the four corners of Ireland.
What fascinates is their frankness. Many recall how “brutal” and “savage” their educators were, others recall the tumultuous events of the 1916 uprising and the “frightening” “black-and-tans” period. Partners’ flaws are laid bare, as are concerns about declining moral standards and today’s youngsters “doing nothing on their little machines”.
But there are also some sparkling moments of humour. One woman’s face lights up as she recalls persuading the lads to swim before stealing their clothes, while another opines that the arrival of electricity wasn’t completely welcome because it “allowed you to see all the dirt”.
The production team initially put ads in local newspapers all over Ireland looking for centenarians but that only yielded a few results. Once they had a few however, they discovered that most centenarians happened to know of other centenarians in neighbouring parishes. However, they would be quick to tell us that the neighbouring centenarian wasn’t quite as fit as they were. They’re quite competitive that way.
In all, there were just over 300 centenarians in Ireland at that time and they wanted to film 10% of these in order to get as accurate a picture of that generation as possible.
They were all very happy to talk, which surprised director Alex Fegan initially. When you reach 100, you don’t care what people think so you just say it as it is. There’s something extremely refreshing about that generation. They are all so natural and without pretence. They also didn’t fit into the stereotype that he ignorantly had before he began. He assumed they would all be very religious and highly conservative, which was not always the case.
There are poignant stories of emigration and poverty, which was huge in Ireland when these centenarians were young. In general, however, the film is much more about the universal journey through life that could be as relevant to centenarian in New Zealand as in Ireland.
Ireland 2015, 81 min, rated M (offensive language)
Directed by Alex Fegan