An encouraging week for Irish cinema at the Sundance Film Festival ended, early on Sunday morning, with Jack Reynor winning the acting prize in the World Cinema competition for Gerard Barrett's highly praised Glassland.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to have been considered and to have won a prize at Sundance this year,” Reynor said. “It’s definitely a reflection of the work of everybody who was part of the film and I’m incredibly proud to have worked with all of them.”
Reynor, a Dubliner, first attracted attention as the star of Lenny Abrahamson's What Richard Did before going on to appear in Transformers: Age of Extinction, the most financially lucrative film of 2014.
In Glassland, Barrett's second film, he plays a young taxi driver coping with an alcoholic mother in contemporary Tallaght. Toni Collette and Will Poulter co-star. Supported by the Irish Film Board, produced by Dublin-based Element Pictures, Glassland shared best Irish feature with Terry McMahon's Patrick's Day at last year's Galway Film Fleadh. The film received strong reviews on its US premiere earlier in the week.
"The tears in Glassland catch you unawares. This is not your run-of-the-mill weepy, nor your archly-crafted Oscar bait," Brian Moylan in the Guardian noted.
Long associated with founding father Robert Redford, the Sundance Film Festival, which takes place in snowy Park City, Utah, is the most important event for independent film in the calendar.
Two of the current nominees for best picture at the Oscars, Whiplash and Boyhood, premiered at last year's event. So, Reynor's win is an important boost for Barrett's low-budget film.
Before the awards were announced, the big news for Irish film at Sundance was the rapturous reception given to John Crowley's Brooklyn. The adaptation of Colm Tóibín's much-loved novel, starring Saoirse Ronan as an Irish emigrant to New York during the 1950s, received ecstatic reviews and, following a bidding war, was acquired by Fox Searchlight for an eye-watering $9 million.
Apologising for jumping the gun absurdly, Variety, the industry's most important trade paper, placed Brooklyn (playing out of competition) in poll position for the 2016 Oscars.
"Ronan, who was previously nominated for 2007's Atonement, will almost certainly be back at the ceremony next year," Ramin Setoodeh, Variety's New York film editor, wrote.
"The Academy loves a good cry, and Brooklyn hits the sweet spot since it checks three important boxes: it's a tearjerker, it's a period piece and it features lots of accents."