An Klondike review: Improbable film of the month – in a good way

Comparisons with the late lamented ‘Deadwood’ are unavoidable in Dathaí Keane’s new feature

Film Title: An Klondike

Director: Dathaí Keane

Starring: Owen McDonnell, Ned Dennehy, Siobhan O’Kelly, Julian Black Antelope, Dara Devaney, Robert O’Mahoney, Sean T O’Meallaigh

Genre: Western

Running Time: 110 min

Thu, Aug 27, 2015, 19:00

   

Earlier this year, the people behind Slow West received deserved praise for making New Zealand look like the Wild West on a modest budget. Ha! Try doing the same thing in and around Oughterard on the money you get to make an Irish-language drama for TG4.

Dathaí Keane has trimmed his four-part series into a workable feature for theatrical release. The story is perhaps just a little cluttered in this format, but the abridged version is still thick with authentic filth and rich in rough-hewn culture.

The film concerns itself with three Connemara brothers named Connolly. While in Montana, the boys encounter an old pal who has struck it rich in the Yukon. He passes on a map locating his claim and they duly make their way towards the Klondike river.

Upon arrival, they encounter a town in convincing embryonic state. Pocket emperors impose their will on citizens. Saloons serve rough booze while immigrants sing ballads to the befuddled prospectors. The boys do begin making money, but that only triggers tension and disruption (as money so often does). Jacob Hopkins, the biggest of all the local big wigs, plots their demise.

Comparisons with the late, lamented Deadwood are unavoidable. Keane is going for the same sense of a place poised between anarchy and civilisation. The sound of Irish dialogue reminds us that Canada was, at this stage, an uneasy coalition of immigrants stumbling their way towards common purpose.

Galway delivers a very creditable performance as the outer stretches of the Yukon. (California might have been more of a stretch.)

The theatrical run in Galway will qualify An Klondike in the race to become Ireland’s Oscar submission for best foreign language film. Something so ambitious deserves our support.

It is, after all, the most improbable film release this month. Regard that as a compliment.