CinÉireann Issue 9 - Page 19

CinÉireann / July 2018 17

Wren Boys

Words: Ronan Doyle

“Tradition can be very cruel,” intone the opening words of Wren Boys, a striking new short film that took home the Tiernan McBride award for best short drama at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh. We’ve discussed before in this column the cruelties of exclusion innate in the Irish cinema tradition where queer narratives were concerned; if the success of Harry Lighton’s fine film might seem to suggest an ebbing in that historical absence, the additional allocation of two prizes to Tom Speers’ stunning Boy Saint surely signals the turning of the tide. Taken together this pair of formally and narratively distinct efforts, both for and despite their significant differences, speaks to emergent trends of aesthetic ambition and disparate perspective that promise to radically redefine conceptions of queerness, both in our national cinema and beyond.

Those titles’ common word is neatly representative of the mutual aspect most immediately apparent in the films’ broad efforts to locate queerness within Irish society: boyhood, and its indoctrination of our young men into the structures and strictures of masculinity, is at the heart of each of these stories, a shared concern that informs nuanced interrogations of the manner in which these rigid frameworks have impacted our queer youth, and how our belated national reckoning therewith has prompted us to reconsider what that might say about our society at large.

Adapting to screen the work of poet Peter LaBerge as part of the MotionPoems project, Speers in this debut film curates an expressive imagery of formative masculinity; DP Kevin Treacy’s camerawork, its lyrical motions and textured compositions rightly earning him the Fleadh’s cinematography prize, frames young male faces and physiques against a variety of pastoral and urban landscapes as a tacit invocation of the nature-nurture divide. As these boys roll about the dunes wrestling or splash about the sea with the Poolbeg Stacks stood in the distance, Speers and Treacy suggest an underlying tension between the inherent tendencies of men and the mould in which society sees fit to cast them.