Citizens Report American Irish Culture

Lakelands screening at the Irish American Movie Hooley

Lakelands movie poster

Over the weekend I made my way from the cornfields of Iowa to the leafy lakeshore suburb of Wilmette to see Lakelands, one of three fine films that made up the Irish American Movie Hooley.

Ok. I live in the northwest suburbs, less than 10 minutes from 1-90. But it may as well be Iowa, given how tough it is to get to Wilmette from here.

Besides, the Iowa reference works well for Lakelands.

See, Lakelands is set in Ireland’s rural midlands. The plot centers around Cian Reilly (played by Éanna Hardwicke), a star player on the local GAA football team. He works the family dairy farm with his widower dad.

His life pretty much is working, playing football and hanging out with the lads, partying, drinking, and smoking pot.

He has a bit of a temper when he drinks. One night that leads to more trouble than usual, even. He gets kicked out of a dance club after a fight and is dumped in an alley.

The guy Cian was fighting brings along two of his pals. They proceed to kick the crap out of Cian. The beating causes a concussion.

Most athletes in most sports have short shelf lives anyway. So now, on top of that, Cian has to come to terms with an injury – that could have been avoided – that could potentially kill him somewhere down the road.

Into Cian’s life re-walks Grace (played by Danielle Galligan), an old flame/friend. She went to school, became a nurse and moved to London. She’s dating a doctor. And she’s back in town because her dad is dying.

So she left to start a new life – which she admits isn’t exactly glamorous in a big city where you’re one of 9 million others.

Cian says he’s content living in a small town. But, over the course of the movie, the concussion and Grace’s presence slowly but surely lead Cian to make some tough, incremental decisions about his own life.

In short, Lakelands is a movie about everyday people making choices about what they will do and won’t do with their lives. Those choices aren’t necessarily grand gestures. That would make Lakelands a typical mainstream Hollywood movie.

Lakelands ain’t that. It’s all the better for it.

As shot by cinematographer Simon Crowe, this movie doesn’t glamorize life in the midlands. It doesn’t romanticize drink or drug use, but presents those as warts-and-all parts of life. It shows how scary concussions can be. And it doesn’t present an idealized version of Irish football.

In short, it’s a no frills film.

Lakelands still
Directors Robert Higgins (left) and Patrick McGivney go over script points with actors Éanna Hardwicke and Danielle Galligan during the shoot for Lakelands.


In fact, after the Hooley screening, Patrick McGivney told the audience it cost less than $200,000 to make Lakelands.

McGivney and his buddy, Robert Higgins, wrote and directed the independent feature. The men are both from Granard.

McGivney said they shot Lakelands over 17 days in November 2021 in Westmeath, Longford and Leitrim.

They lucked out with the weather, even, and had no rain during filming, McGivney said.

The weather also provided a beautiful fall sunset that was incorporated into the movie.

They also lucked out with casting their finely-acted film.

Turns out Gary Lydon, who plays football coach Bernie in Lakelands, lives not too far from where the men shot Lakelands.

Lydon had been coaching a local Irish football youth team,. He joked about that being a method acting exercise in preparation for Lakelands, McGivney said.

Lydon played an abusive cop and father in last year’s Academy Award Best Picture nominee, The Banshees of Inisherin.

“You see a lot less of him in Lakelands,” McGivney quipped. That’s because in one brief Banshees scene Lydon goes “Full Monty,” sleeping in the buff in a chair.

There’s no nudity in Lakeland. No sex, even. While there’s chemistry between Cian and Grace, the relationship remains chaste in Lakelands.

The men also made their debut feature length film about things they know.

McGivney said he played Irish football and wanted to be the first to incorporate the sport into a film. McGivney’s dad also operates a dairy farm.

He said Hardwicke spent time working on the farm to better understand his role. Lorcan Cranitch, who plays Cian’s dad, even wore some of McGivney’s dad’s clothing to get into character.

While filming Lakelands, the crew also lucked into the birth of a calf, which they worked into the film. McGivney said his father stood off camera, miming to Hardwicke as for how to assist the newborn calf – not realizing he could have talked had he wanted to do so, as the sound  could have been edited out afterward.

The directors made some life choices of their own to make Lakelands. McGiveny said both quit their jobs in public relations to devote time to the project.

They, along with Chris Higgins and Andrei Bogdan, produced Lakelands for Harp Media with backing from Screen Ireland, Creative Ireland, Longford Arts Office and Backstage Theatre.

Lakelands has been well-received.

It took home the Best Irish Film award at the 2022 Galway Film Fleadh, where Hardwicke and Galligan received the Bingham Ray New Talent Awards. Lakelands, Hardwicke and Galligan were also nominees for the 2023 Irish Film & Television Awards.

Alas, there are no plans in place yet for a stateside release to theaters. I tried to find if it can be streamed somewhere in the US midlands, to no avail.

So for now, you’ll have to take my word for it that Lakelands is a good movie.

My guess is we’ll be seeing more work from these budding, entrepreneurial filmmakers as well as from Hardwicke and Galligan.

Perhaps not as much of Lydon, though. That’s the naked truth.

Éanna Hardwicke and Danielle Galligan
Éanna Hardwicke and Danielle Galligan star in the Irish movie Lakelands.

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