Ciné Gael Irish film festival
opens with a charming tale
Award-winning Roise & Frank features a dog with a real tail to tell it
By Byron Toben
February 6, 2023
After two years of pandemic cancellations or streaming substitutes, Montreal’s Ciné Gael Irish film series returned to live screenings in its 31st season, on January 27, with a bang, Roise & Frank. The film was released in Ireland in 2022, where it won Best Ensemble Award at the Dublin International Film Festival, and in the USA in 2023, winning the Audience Award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
Roise & Frank is a charming tale featuring a dog with a real tail to tell it. The dog (named Barley in real life) plays a dog dubbed Frank in this Irish language comedy drama set in the lush countryside around the town of An Rinn in the province of Munster in the southeast of Ireland. More specifically, in an Irish language Gaeltacht (parish coastal county) but the spoken Irish was no barrier as the subtitles are clear and succinct.
The human stars are a widow, Roise (Brid Ni Neachtain), her M.D. son Alan (Cillian O Gairbhi) and a lonely male neighbour, Donncha (Lorcan Cranitch). Roise’s deceased husband was an Irish star player in hurling, an ancient sport with elements of field hockey and lacrosse.
A young boy, Michael (Ruad de Faoite) is considered not good enough for the local hurling team.
A stray brown dog seems to adopt and follow Roise everywhere. At first, trying to shoo the dog off, she eventually accepts him and finally considers that he is the reincarnation of her late husband, Frank. This is reinforced when the dog, Frank, seems to coach Michael in hurling. Roise’s son fears that she is becoming psychotic.
Eventually, after some plot twists, the local hurling team wins the championship but the dog, Frank, lacking an identity microchip, is sent off by the local pound to another family who renames him Sparky.
The film was released in Ireland in 2022, where it won Best Ensemble Award at the Dublin International Film Festival, and in the USA in 2023, winning the Audience Award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
The all-Irish human cast is uniformly excellent, particularly Roise.
However, the anthropomorphic dog had to be imported from England, as admitted by co-writers/directors Peter Murphy and Rachel Moriarty in a post-screening Zoom interview with an audience of about 100 in Concordia’s refurbished Cinéma de Sève.
Long-time founder and chair Lynn Lonergan Doyle, became chair emerita of Ciné Gael as Martina Branagan was presented as the new Chair.
Ciné Gael’s next screening on February 10 presents two films, The 34th: The Story of Marriage Equality in Ireland plus When Women Won.
Individual screenings remain at $12 each. However, season passes for all remaining seven screenings are now reduced to $65.
Feature image: frame from Roise & Frank
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.