Irene’s Ghost


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Irene's Ghost
"I commend this film to you, entreat you to see it." | Photo: Courtesy of London Film Festival

Families are not only collections of genetic material but mechanisms for creating and storing secrets. Borges, Linnaeus, and Pliny the Elder all would see the utility of:-

Those that crawl; Those that fly; Those that would be within this category but are now too tall; Those who know why.

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There is an intimacy to this film that makes it difficult to countenance that it is of feature length - some of that may be prior exposure to shorts as deeply personal as Where We Are Now, to the learned and associated fears of revealing secrets, of what is perhaps too readily identified as vulnerability.

There is a lot of emotion. Not only talk about, around, but candid discussions of feelings, difficult ones, ones long glossed over. One hesitates to use the word buried in this context, but this is an examination of a topic not raked over, now unearthed.

Iain Cunningham's mother died when he was three. His own daughter Isla is now of that age, and so is my niece. Memory is a strange thing. Familial memory even stranger. It feels almost wasteful to tell you about this film because it tells so much of itself - across industrial landscapes and records offices, unvisited cousins a few doors down, in animated sequences and difficult interviews truths unfurl.

There's a lot about relationships - from Fife mining stock originally (as with your reviewer) and to Nuneaton there's also a recognisable 'dad-ness' in the senior Cunningham. There's a lot of openness too, in discontinuities of self and proximities and distance there's something haunting here, but affirming too.

I commend this film to you, entreat you to see it - at festival and other screenings it's been supported by Iain himself in Q&A and if you can this is the best way to see it. He'll give permission to laugh at the lighter bits. He'll explain how the parallels between the animated work of Ellie Land and memory came organically into the film. You'll see how seamlessly they are integrated in the pages of a book. He'll add body and light and life to a work that has all of those in spades.

You may also get the chance to hear from Action on Post-Partum Psychosis, whose work informs the film and the film supports. This is not an easy film to watch, perhaps in any sense, but as with the story it tells it is worth seeking out.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2019
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Irene’s Ghost packshot
A filmmaker explores the life of the mother who died when he was just three years old.

Director: Iain Cunningham

Year: 2018

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: UK


Glasgow 2019

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