Doineann: Irish-language thriller starts strongly but peters out

Island noir has some nice touches until standard gangster fare takes over

Peter Coonan and Bríd Brennan in Doineann

Film Title: Doineann

Director: Damian McCann

Starring: Peter Coonan, Bríd Brennan, Clare Monnelly, Sean T O’Meallaigh

Genre: Crime

Running Time: 94 min

Fri, Jan 28, 2022, 05:00

   

We begin with a startling image that promises all kinds of cunning misdirection. Tomás (Peter Coonan), an investigative reporter living on a remote Irish island, glances down in the shower and sees a trail of what looks like blood. It transpires we are actually looking at ketchup draining from a bottle placed incongruously on the soap shelf. Tomás’s wife, Siobhán (Clare Monnelly), has postpartum depression and seems to be placing household objects where they don’t belong. Later she cuts herself on a glass and spreads some genuine plasma about the hardwood floors.

Doineann, an Irish-language production, can’t quite deliver on that early promise. Ticking along in high Scandi style, Damian McCann’s film forms itself into something like a pilot for a television show you probably wouldn’t watch. Or would you?

The most persuasive selling point is Bríd Brennan’s performance as Labhaoise, a retired cop who – for reasons that don’t entirely hold up – takes over the investigation when Tomás’s wife and baby go missing. Plodding around like a less disingenuous Columbo, Labhaoise positively cries out for a juicier conspiracy. One could hardly imagine a character more tuned in to the great gumshoe tradition. Like so many of the best fictional detectives, she has an unthreatening, unhurried manner that causes the guilty to let their guards down. 

Sadly, in plot terms, what we get here is a low-temperature gangster yarn that builds up only a tolerable amount of intrigue before throwing up its hands and allowing one key character to talk us through every last detail of the supposed mystery. The conspicuous borrowing from a classic thriller works well enough as narrative hairpin and sneaky homage. An earlier pulling of the rug is carried off with flair. The ever reliable Seán T Ó Meallaigh adds convincing colour as the island’s chief oddball.

But so much of Doineann is taken up with folk talking to one another in uninspiring two-shots that, by the time we get to a climactic storm scene, most of the air has leaked from the balloon. The potential is unfulfilled.  

Released on January 28th