As Darren Thornton’s Drogheda-set lesbian romance, ‘A Date For Mad Mary’ hits screens across the country, we cast a queer eye on the best LGBT characters ever to grace an Irish fillum, begorrah!
1. Jesús in ‘Viva’ (Paddy Breathnach, 2016)
Although this film is set in Cuba, it’s written by Irish gay man, Mark O’Halloran, directed by an Irish man, and funded by the Irish film board, so we’re claiming it as an Irish film. Just as Jesús (Héctor Medina) gets a start in his dream job as a drag queen at his gay local in Havana, his estranged macho father (Jorge Perugorría) lands on his doorstep, and forbids him to perform. Brilliant chemistry between Medina and Perugorría, along with a cracking script, make this a love story between a father and son that challenges attitudes to masculinity and explores the boundaries of responsibility.
2. Patrick Broden in ‘Breakfast on Pluto’ (Neil Jordan, 2006)
As a baby, Patrick (Cillian Murphy) is left by his mother on the steps of the rectory in their small Irish town. He’s discovered by Father Liam (Liam Neeson), coincidentally his real father, and placed in an abusive foster home. By the time he’s a teen, Patrick identifies himself as transgender, renames himself Kitten and sets out for London with a rock group in hopes of finding his mother. This anarchic odyssey is ahead of its time in the presentation of a unpaologetic non-binary character who finds happiness by the final frame.
3. Mary in ‘A Date for Mad Mary’ (Darren Thornton, 2016)
Upon her completion of a six-month prison stretch for a vicious assault, Mary returns to her hometown of sunny Drogheda and sets about rekindling her friendship with soon-to-be married ex-bessie Charlene. However, Charlene has outgrown Mary, as evidenced by her increasingly distant demeanor and her refusal give Mary a plus-one to the wedding. Unable to face her friend’s rejection, and desperate to prove her worth, Mary sets about find a date for the wedding. After a parade of laughable losers she encounters lovely chanteuse Jess and a ray of hope penetrates her wounded warrior ways. This is a rare thing, an Irish lesbian romance that actually hits all the right notes.
4. Albert in ‘Albert Nobbs’ (Rodrigo Garcia, 2011)
In this tragic tale set in 19th-century Ireland, painfully shy butler Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close) is hiding an incredible secret: He is really a she. Terrified that someone will discover her identity, Albert keeps a very low profile, until the arrival of Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) registers a sea change in Albert’s life. Hubert is also secretly a woman and has managed to find a female partner who helps her maintain her masquerade. Hoping to find a similar arrangement, and love, Albert begins wooing a hotel maid (Mia Wasikowska). It’s a period drama with a twist and a moving performance from Close at it’s heart.
5. Alfie in ‘A Man of No Importance’ (Suri Krishnamma, 1994)
In early-1960s Dublin, bus conductor Alfie Byrne (Albert Finney) lives quietly, leading a local amateur theatrical troupe and keeping house with his sister, Lily (Brenda Fricker). Deeply closeted at a time when homosexuality is still a criminal offense in Ireland, the middle-aged Alfie creates a local scandal when he announces a production of Oscar Wilde’s play Salome, starring country girl Adele (Tara Fitzgerald) and Robbie (Rufus Sewell), the bus driver for whom Alfie secretly pines. We love Alfie because he stands up to prejudice, and always with a smile on his face.
6. Fergus in ‘The Crying Game’ (Neil Jordan, 1992)
Irish Republican Army member Fergus (Stephen Rea) forms an unexpected bond with Jody (Forest Whitaker), a kidnapped British soldier in his custody, despite the warnings of fellow IRA members Jude (Miranda Richardson) and Maguire (Adrian Dunbar). Jody makes Fergus promise he’ll visit his pre-op trans girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson), in London. When Fergus flees to the city, pursued by the IRA, he seeks Dil out and falls in love with her himself. The revelation of Dil’s gender identity is used as a shock tactic, which gives this film a transphobic edge, but there’s no dismissing the tenderness of the queer love story at its heart.
7. Vincent in ‘Cowboys & Angels’ (David Gleeson, 2003)
Hapless civil servant, Shane (Michael Legge) gets more than he bargained for when he moves into an apartment with a gay fashion student, Vincent (Allen Leech). Vincent takes the uptight Shane under his wing and the two become fast friends, but Shane’s life begins to spiral out of control when he gets involved with a botched drug run. This charming little film, set in Limerick, is one of the first Irish films to explore modern sexual identity, and while Vincent may be a tad stereotypical, it’s hard not to love his proud, positive attitude.
8. Angie in ‘Goldfish Memory’ (Liz Gill, 2003)
It’s all sexual identity in the city as a group of Dublin singletons look for love in all the wrong places in this charming comedy from Liz Gill. Angie (Flora Montgomery) is the lesbian who has an affair with bisexual Clara, then falls in love with Kate, and then has a hapless one-night-stand with her gay best friend, Red, and becomes pregnant. The first Irish film to suggest that young Irish people had multi-faceted sexualities, it’s a little bit dated but nevertheless entertaining.
9. Johnnie in ‘2X4’ (Jimmy Smallhorne, 1998)
Openly bisexual, Johnnie has recently emigrated from Ireland to The Bronx in New York. After shifts working as a builder for his uncle, he experiences nightmares, but try as he might, he can not identify the cause of of his torment. Pressures mount when his girlfriend, Maria, and a sex-partner, Christian, begin to push him for more commitment. One of the first portrayals of an Irish bisexual man, Johnnie may be tormented, but he’s unapologetic, and this rarely seen film packs a powerful punch.
10 & 11. The Kevin’s in ‘The Stag’ (John Butler, 2014)
‘Big’ Kevin (Andrew Bennett) and “Little’ Kevin (Michael Legge, Cowboys & Angels) are a gay couple in this Irish answer to The Hangover, which follows a band of bonding boys on a stag party in the wilds of Wicklow. Despite the director being a gay man, it’s easy to think the gays are there just for show, but then they become the centre of the tension as we realise ‘Big’ Kevin isn’t invited to the wedding because the father of ‘Little’ Kevin (and the groom) is against their relationship. It allows for a brief discussion on a divide between young and old generations on the subject of homosexuality that seems dated already, but the film’s gay payoff is genuinely moving.
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