Winnie is ten. Winnie is in trouble at school. Winnie can get violent but only when the other kids disrespect her. Winnie is sensitive but she is unable to express her emotions. Winnie is a little traveler girl. She lives in a trailer in the docks area of Dublin with her mother and a few of her nine brothers and sisters. Her father is away, dead or gone. Everyday life is hard, all the more as the council authorities are intent on evicting them. But Winnie is resilient. Just like her combative mother she survives day after day, holds on, keeps hoping without even being aware of it... Written by
Let me say, straight away, that I am always suspicious of films that set themselves among the most under-privileged. There seems, for the most part some element of directors gazing down with virtuous intent from a great height onto these poor sods.
Pavee Lackeen suffers less than most from this syndrome, but it falls into the trap of thinking that a slice of life is the same thing as a slice of cinema. It isn't.
Two things stick out like a sore thumb in this film. The first is that it has no dramatic structure. We join the family of travellers on whom it focuses at, apparently, some random moment, some things happen, and then we leave them at another apparently equally random moment. On the way, have we seen character development? No. Have we been given any insight into the human psyche? No.
What we have had is a glimpse into the life of a young traveller girl, who is full of fun and life, and has lots of problems. We are sorry for her (we were probably that within five minutes of the start). We have learnt a few things about the way that travellers live in outer Dublin
but less than we might have by reading a well-written newspaper
At the screening I attended, the director, a nice man and former still photographer, declared himself to be in the line of film-making that came from Alan Clarke and early Ken Loach - that later Loach films, he thought, were too contrived. Hmmm. Yes. That says it all.
Here we have a naive belief that to film 'reality' without interference is art if that reality features the under-privileged. It isn't.
The director pointed out that it was shot on a minuscule budget (£320,000) - and, in fairness, he wasn't saying that this meant we had to make allowances.
It would be my belief that one of the most important things in a film is what is taken out. I don't mean edited. I mean that as much of what we see must be expressive and not confuse the viewer as to what each shot is about. Here, everything is cluttered and unstructured. I am not looking for 'beautiful squalor', but I am looking for some obvious attempt by the filmmakers to direct my eyes in a particular direction. I don't see it.
The 'acting' by these mainly non-professionals is fine. The archetypes created as characters are fine. But there is no structure and no visual strategy... that is, until the last shot, when the camera which has been jiggling about like a yo-yo for the rest of the film, is allowed to come to rest and in a single shot, say more about the plight of the characters than the previous 90 minutes - and for the first time, it uses non-diegetic music!! Great!
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