The rights of LGBT+ people in Ireland have come a long way. Only 25 years ago, this Catholic nation used to arrest people for being gay, and yet in 2015, with the referendum for equality, Ireland became the first country in the world to ever legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. However, the lasting power of tradition can still be “a fierce, brutal thing,” something which is explored all too vividly in Wren Boys, a BAFTA nominated short written and directed by Harry Lighton.
Wren Boys begins with a speech delivered on St Stephen’s Day, where a priest from County Cork tells how local boys used to be sent out into the woods to “murder a tiny bird” with sticks. By burying the wren together, the local parish could then bid farewell to the past and look forward to the new year.
These days, a fake wren is used rather than a real bird, but some cruel traditions just won’t stay buried and that’s what Wren Boys sets out to explore in the nine minutes that follow.
The official synopsis is deceptively simple: “On the day after Christmas, a Catholic priest from Cork drives his nephew to prison.” However, what Lighton does with such a limited running time is nothing short of astounding. It’s no wonder then that Wren Boys was described as “one of Sundance’s best shorts for 2018” and has since gone on to win BAFTA and BIFA nominations too.
To say much more about Seamus (Diarmuid Noyes) and Conor’s (Lalor Roddy) visit to their local prison would do the film a disservice, but just know that it’s beautifully made, even if the subject matter takes a decidedly dark turn. Not only are each of the three central performances pitch perfect, but DP Nick Morris also works wonders with grainy images that are shot on real film, physically bringing the resilience of tradition to life on screen.
Wren Boys is currently available to watch on Amazon Prime in the US and the UK. Check out the official website for more information.
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