After getting into an altercation at a nightclub, Cian’s (Éanna Hardwicke) night ends in disaster when he’s viciously assaulted in an alley. While he initially tries to shrug the event off as no big deal – “You should’ve seen the other lads. Not a scratch on ‘em,” he jokes at the pub – it soon becomes apparent that his head injury is more serious than he thought. He’s unable to concentrate at his job on the farm and his days as the star player in an Irish football team look to be over. However, Cian finds this life-changing news hard to swallow and refuses to take a break despite the advice from those around him.
Written and directed by Robert Higgins and Patrick McGivney, Lakelands quietly explores aspects of masculinity with thoughtfulness and care. Cian is unable to show any weakness in front of his teammates and father (Lorcan Cranitch). He insists he’s fine when it’s clear his coach and friends know that couldn’t be further from the truth. Nevertheless, neither they nor the footballer are willing to address the elephant in the room for fear of disturbing an unspoken status quo.
Hardwicke’s performance is nothing short of exceptional. The star effortlessly navigates a wide spectrum of emotion in nuanced fashion. Though his laddish persona only allows the protagonist to express himself through rage or humour, there’s confusion and suffering underneath this defensive bravado, which becomes harder to keep in check. The anguish pours out during one late-night kitchen scene, in which Cian returns home after seeking retribution against his attackers, and it’s here where Hardwicke’s talents shine the most.
It’s only when he finds some common ground with an old friend (Danielle Galligan) that Cian can begin to come to terms with what’s happened. The pair are there to offer each other support, and though they never discuss their anxieties explicitly, acknowledging their existence is enough to set them on the right path.
Higgins and McGivney’s Lakelands is a thoughtful reflection on masculinity. While the filmmakers have plenty to criticise, they likewise provide a beacon of hope to show that a major change in life doesn’t mean that it’s the end.
Lakelands does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Glasgow Film Festival website here.