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Lakelands: Film Review

Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney’s Lakelands is a subtle and poignant film about learning to embrace a future that isn’t at all what you imagined.

Unlike a more traditional coming-of-age story, Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney’s Lakelands is a film about coming to terms with a future that’s different from the one you imagined. It’s a film about a young man finding out what his life can be without some of the things which he felt were the most important, and poignantly explores small-town life in rural Ireland.

Cian (Éanna Hardwicke) is quite the busy guy, farming with his father (Lorcan Cranitch) by day and playing on the local Gaelic football team in the evening. He’s also quite partial to a night out involving drinking copious pints, shots and smokes with his teammates. But one such excursion ends with Cian getting beaten in an alleyway and suffering a serious concussion that, ultimately, has a massive impact on his life in the fields and on the pitch.

Higgins and McGivney’s film feels lived in and genuine. Their script is relatively pared back, but rather than that being a negative, it’s in a way that really lets the quiet, more emotional moments of the film shine. Cian’s world is quite a laddish one, one in which an apology is more often just a cup of tea and some biscuits, or a pint, rather than the words ‘I’m sorry’. It’s not one that invites much introspection or discussions of feelings. Which makes it all the more poignant, then, when that’s exactly what the directors let Cian do. Intimate camera work, from cinematographer Simon Crowe, lets the audience in where Cian doesn’t necessarily let anyone else. We see him at his weakest moments, with glimpses of his grief, his anger and his eventual resolve.

loud and clear reviews Lakelands film movie 2023 glasgow festival
Lakelands (Wildcard Distribution / 2023 Glasgow Film Festival)

The quasi-platonic relationship he shares with Danielle Galligan’s Grace also helps examine his character a bit more. Their reconnection after a few years gives room for a little more vulnerability, as he’s able to talk with her in a way he isn’t necessarily able – or willing – to do with his father or his friends. Her insights as a nurse, but also as someone who cares about him, help him slowly process what has happened, heal and start to move forward. The pair have such great chemistry, and it’s refreshing to see a really sensitive portrayal of friendship between two would-be love interests on screen when things don’t align quite right for a romance.

Cian himself is a bit of an enigma, switching between borderline cocky to gentle and caring in the span of a few scenes. Hardwicke gives a very impressive yet subtly emotive performance, with the way in which he’s given the chance to cycle through Cian’s denial, frustration, grief, resolve and anger effectively fleshing out a character that doesn’t offer up much to those around him. He’s a little bit reckless with his recovery, ignoring symptoms and advice, pushing himself too fast too quickly and brushing off the concerns of those that care about him. But it doesn’t ever become irritating, instead making the film’s emotional impact that much stronger because our frustration as audience members is coming from a place of caring for Cian, too.

Lakelands is a quiet, genuinely moving film that feels personal and lovingly crafted. It’s a film about embracing change, overcoming diversity and regaining a sense of who you are without one of the things that really defines you. As well as the importance of not ignoring a concussion, just because you want to have a kickabout with the lads.

Lakelands had its UK Premiere at the 2023 Glasgow Film Festival on 4-5 March, 2023 and opened in cinemas across the UK & Ireland on Friday 5th May 2023. Read our interview with directors Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney!

Lakelands Interview: Robert Higgins & Patrick McGivney – Loud And Clear Reviews
Interview: Lakelands’ writers-directors Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney sit down with us for an interview about their poignant Irish film.
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