Frances Winston reviews this feature directorial debut from Hugh O’Connor
Director: Hugh O’Connor – Starring: Jordanne Jones, Leah McNamara, Moe Dunford, Séan Doyle, Aaron Heffernan
If ever you were in doubt about how long it takes to get a film into cinemas, I first saw this over a year ago, at a special Comic Con screening. It had actually been completed some time before that. Yep folks – filmmaking is a slow process.
This is the feature directorial debut for Hugh O’Connor a.k.a one of the nicest men working in Irish film. When people say he’s lovely, they really mean it. Honestly, I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him.
For his first time in the feature director’s chair, he has chosen a teen coming of age drama, written by novelist turned screenwriter, Paul Murray. This genre is notoriously tricky. Get it right, and it resonates and warms the cockles of teens for decades. Get it wrong, and it can ruin promising careers from the get-go.
Focusing on two sisters, Emma (Jones) and Chantal (McNamamra) who are literally chalk and cheese, this manages to shine a light on the teen social pecking order. Emma is an emo kid, who wants to be a music star. Chantal is a bit of a princess, who dreams of being an “influencer” (I can assure you that is the correct use of quotation marks – if I could use multiple ones I would).
When their parents leave them home alone, the scene is set for all sorts of upheaval. Chantal does her neck in, and Emma starts a (very creepy) relationship with their older neighbour (Dunford) while all their friends are dealing with various struggles that come with those awkward teenage years.
The cast are fantastic, making characters that could have been two-dimensional rounded and interesting. Even Chantal, who could have easily been completely vacuous, becomes a character you actually really care about.
And, overall, the story is sweet. I do feel that O’Connor could have taken more chances with the darker elements of the script, but I refer you to my previous ‘nicest man in Irish film’ remark.
What he has managed to do, however, is show that there are several ways of navigating through those difficult years, and that there is no right or wrong answer. Everyone who has lived through that milestone era in their lives will relate to at least a couple of the struggles on screen, while a teen audience will find much of the material on the button.
Metal Heart isn’t as memorable as it could have been, but is a promising feature directorial debut for O’Connor, and a wonderful showcase for the young cast. It’s also great to see smaller Irish films getting made and distributed, and kudos to all involved.
Metal Heart is heart-warming, but not groundbreaking, but definitely worth 90 minutes of your time, and bodes well for O’Connor’s future efforts.
In Cinemas Now!