Twice Shy review: walking softly on a well-trodden road

This tale of a young Irish couple travelling to England for an abortion avoids rhetoric

Twice Shy, the coming-of-age-drama written and directed by Tom Ryan will be released in the Light House Cinema, Dublin on Friday 23rd June.

Iseult Casey and Shane Murray-Corcoran in ‘Twice Shy’: does not normalise the procedure of abortion – merely normalises the idea that one can travel to the UK

Film Title: Twice Shy

Director: Tom Ryan

Starring: Shane Murray Corcoran, Iseult Casey, Ardal O'Hanlon, Paul Ronan, Pat Shortt

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 77 min

Thu, Jun 22, 2017, 07:00


An inverted Hibernian Before Sunrise, Twice Shy follows Andy (Shane Murray-Corcoran) and Maggie (Iseult Casey), a young Irish couple, as they travel to England with the intention of terminating Maggie’s pregnancy. Flashbacks chronicle a very Irish romance: conversations about the Leaving Cert, the big Debs night, their first holiday, and, finally, the slow dissolution of their relationship as university life, new friends and old family problems come between them.

At home, Andy and Maggie’s lives are defined by two very different dads. The wisecracking Pat Shortt, who, we think, knows (or suspects) more about his daughter’s going away than he is willing to let on. Another veteran, Ardal O’Hanlon, quietly raises questions about depression and duty of care with his turn as Andy’s psychologically fragile father.

It says something profound, and possibly discombobulating, that the nice folks at Ireland’s classification office felt obliged – and with good reason – to slap Tom Ryan’s heartwarming sophomore feature with a 16 certificate and a note: “Abortion theme, sensitively depicted.”

Heated polemic

The strange, heated polemic that exists around the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution makes the subject impossible to broach without fear of forfeiture and fireworks. And yet Ryan, a brilliant young film-maker from Tipperary, has not only found an even-tempered way to cinematically touch on the matter, he has also wrestled back the notion of “starting a conversation”, a phrase that long ago seemed lost to sinister extremists of various stripes.

Twice Shy, as the Nenagh-born filmmaker has noted in an interview with The Irish Times, is not “an abortion movie”. The film does not, unlike Gillian Robspierre’s Obvious Child or TV’s Jane the Virgin, depict or normalise the procedure: it merely normalises the idea that one can travel to the UK. Andy and Maggie discuss various options and what-ifs, but standard abortion-related rhetoric is not rehearsed within Ryan’s carefully observed, naturalistic script.

Easy chemistry

Kevin Minogue’s cinematography makes various locations in Dublin and Ryan’s native Nenagh look splendid. There’s a lovely, easy chemistry between impressive newcomer Casey and Murray-Corcoran, whose youthful career credits stretch back to Angela’s Ashes (1999).

Their delicate romance fits neatly beside the director’s €950-budgeted immigration-themed debut feature Trampoline, and such recent indie fare as Gerard Walsh’s South. There’s a new vogue in Irish cinema for realism without the associated grit and grubbiness.

Stay tuned. Ryan is one to watch and then some.