Maeve - Maeve( Blu Ray) [BFI - 2021]
From the early 1980s, Maeve is an Irish drama with a feminist tilt, set in Northern Ireland during the troubles of the ’70s/’80s. The film has a shifting and jarring structure- which darts back and forth in the life of young women who lives in, then departs, before returning to Belfast. Here from the BFI is a Blu Ray release of this lesser-seen independent Irish film- with a new scan of the picture, and a few extras.
Maeve appeared in 1981 and it was written/ directed by Pat Murphy- who is a Dublin born director, writer, and producer who made only three feature-length films. The other two being Anne Devlin(1984) a woman's point of view of an Irish revolt in the 1800s, and Nora(2000) charting James Joyce affair with a hotel maid. Maeve is a glum and stark, if well-made and well-acted family drama, which certainly has touches of heart and humour- although its darting character timeline does challenging the viewer at points.
The film focuses on twenty-something Maeve Sweeney (Mary Jackson) who has been living in London for a few years and decides to go back and visit her mother, father Martin (Mark Mulholland) and younger sister Rosin(Brid Brennan) for a weeks holiday. The troubles are still very much at large, as she gets a bus into the city going past bombed-out buildings, British soldiers, and bomb scares abound. Her sister works in a local pub on nights, and early on we see her getting accosted by British soldiers- with her papers and address checked. A fair bit of the film takes place at night-time, with the unlit streets alive with gunshots and calls of soldiers. At points we suddenly swim back to the younger days of the two sisters- with the family been targeted for their beliefs, having to move to a street with corrugated steel gates in. Also, we meet Maeve older boyfriend who lives above a spiritual church, and when she was a teen she lost her virginity to him in front of a roaring fire. The film is very much made of snippets/ snapshots of points in Maeve life- with the whole thing being fairly open-ended.
Jackson is good as the then present-day Maeve- been a good blend of stand-offish and caring- as we see her move from the stern new wave soundtracked bustle of a London bar, to the battered suburban streets of Belfast. The actress who plays the younger Maeve is good too. Brennan is good as the spunkier younger sister. As is Mulholland as the pairs father who is both psychologically/ physically worn down by the troubles.
Moving onto this Blu Ray, and we get a new 2k remastered scan of the film- and this largely enhances the more stark elements of the film, and sadly doesn’t make the night-time shots any clearer- but on the whole, it's a good enough remaster for a low budget film. On the extras side we get the following- Being a Woman is a Nationality- this is a fourteen-minute visual essay by filmmaker Chris O'Neill, she talks about the importance of the film in the Irish nationalist movement and how this is Irelands first feminist film, though also pointing out it’s not purely a feminist film. She moves on to discuss the film's plot and its themes, and feminism, republicanism and nationality. Next, we get Irish Cinema - Ourselves Alone?- this a 1996 BFI produced documentary about Irish film- both made by other countries and by Irish filmmakers. The doc gives a history of Irish film- starting with the first images filmed in Ireland, moving onto Hollywood films from the 40’s-to-60’s made in Ireland, going onto films made by Irish filmmakers in the ’70s, ’80s and 90’s- and their themes. We get a good selection of interviews from the likes of Neil Jordan, Bob Quinn, Jim Sheridan, as well as input from Pat Murphy who briefly talks about Maeve. It’s certainly worth a watch doc. The finished release comes with a booklet featuring a new discussion on the film between Pat Murphy, John Davies and Robert Smith and a new essay by Emmie McFadden.
I would say if you enjoy drama set in a troubled/ under control state, then I think you will get something from Maeve- and the feminist twist on the whole thing is interesting/ well done. The only real issues here are the films length, which feels around twenty/ thirty minutes too long at just shy of the two-hour mark, and the films darting/ shifting structure. It is certainly great to see BFI putting out this release of Maeve, and let us hope they plan to release some more independent Irish films shortly.Roger Batty