FILM Headford setting for new Irish rom-com

Staying In

The cast of ‘The O’Briens’, including Lochlann O Mearáin (far right).
The cast of ‘The O’Briens’, including Lochlann O Mearáin (far right).

Headford setting for rom-com

Ciara Moynihan

If the depiction of Ireland in films often makes you cringe, but you love a good rom-com, new Irish film ‘The O’Briens’ may be just up your alley. Eschewing the all-to-easy, arragh-whisht-yer-gabbin’-Rosy-and-fetch-the-donkey type of portrayals of Irish people and culture, it favours an authentic depiction of everyday modern Ireland and the people who populate it. That’s not to say fans of ‘PS I Love You’ and ‘Circle of Friends’ won’t like this film – it’s a ‘feel-good’ film after all – it just means that those who would rather swerve such cliché-peppered flicks will be pleasantly surprised.  
Westport-based actor Lochlann O Mearáin, who stars in the film, tells The Mayo News that ‘The O’Briens’ tells the story of a Headford family raised in ‘a nice country house’. “The father calls his now-grown-up children home for an announcement,” says O Mearáin. “One son comes back from New York, another comes back from London, and a daughter comes back from Dublin … The big announcement is that the dad is remarrying two years after his wife’s death. The film is about how everyone reacts to that.”
Dublin man O Mearáin, a father of three (soon to be four), has lived in Westport for six years. A veteran of the acting game, he has starred in ‘Ros na Rún’ and ‘Glenroe’ and is familiar to many from Bord Bia’s ‘Your food is our passion’ TV ads. He has also starred in several films, including the 2009 movie ‘Holy Water’ and the newly released ‘The Summit’, which tells the story of the eleven climbers who died on K2 in 2008 (O Mearáin plays Irish climber Ger McDonnell). Watch out for him too in the BBC’s ‘The Musketeers’, which will be hitting our screens soon.
In ‘The O’Briens’, he plays the daughter’s husband Brendan, a role he thoroughly enjoyed: “Brendan is reflective of modern Irish society,” explains O’Mearain, “in the sense that the crash has happened, his business is failing, he’s under serious financial pressure, but he doesn’t want his kids to know how things are. So, he’s quite lighthearted in one way, but he’s completely freaked out in another way … It was kind of new territory for me, but it was also a comedic role, conflicted between anger and joy – and comedy is really what I like to do.”
Billed as Ireland’s first independently funded rom-com, ‘The O’Briens’ was made in an intensive three-week shoot in August 2012 for a budget of just €10,000. The action takes place in a big old country house just off the main Headford-to-Shrule road, and in the local town and its surrounds.  
“The stars of the whole film are probably Headford and the people of Headford, who provided everything they could for us … They made us food and gave us places to stay for free. They drove us around and let us use their houses and gardens. You’ll see lots of locals in the film too: Football coaches, TY students… everyone in the pub scene is local.”
For O Mearáin, the film’s insistence on authenticity was a big appeal. “The producers [Saoirse Films’ Slaine Kelly and Emmett Hughes] wanted to bring an Irish-looking film to America that was created here in Ireland – but not the twee version of Ireland that we normally see, with people putting on silly accents and stuff. In this film, people talk normally; they’ve normal problems going on. There’s homosexuality and divorce in Ireland, and the film reflects that: It’s a modern take on Ireland for an American audience. It’s goes against the sort of sheeny veneer of films like ‘PS I Love You’. It’s full of Irish sarcasm, wit and humour, but our bitterness as well.”
And it seems that the film has struck a chord with its target audience in America: It was shown at the prestigious Newport Beach Film Festival in California last April, where it scooped an Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking Award and enjoyed an extra screening due to popular demand. Released on DVD in Ireland earlier this month, it sounds like it could strike a chord with Irish Christmas shoppers too.

The O’Briens’ is now available in record shops, XtraVision and Tesco stores nationwide.