The subject of most musical documentaries is usually a musician, but North Circular is different, and not in a good way. This time the filmmakers present a random group of people who complain about their lost past. And the music that intercuts, as beautiful as it is, has no bearing on their tales.
This takes the genre into no-man’s-land and ends up playing like a series of local TV broadcasts that could have been set anywhere. It’s just not Irish.
This film begins in a pub. The hauntingly beautiful voice of a young woman sitting alone as she delivers her lament is visually compelling. But then she is gone and we never learn how someone so young could sing from so deep in her soul.
The next disappointment is that it’s not just the intro that’s in black and white, but the whole film. Life is never in black and white, so why present it as such? But no sooner has this question been asked than endless stunning but irrelevant shots drift across the screen.
By the end of the first 10 minutes, it’s clear that this is going to be a masterpiece in self indulgence.
Along the way we meet many people but they never stay long enough for us to get to know them.
A middle-aged woman grieves the loss of the community where she was brought up. She seems likeable enough but her personal story is never shared so our empathy is limited.
There’s a rueful story about a soon-to-be-demolished pub, which motivates an entire neighborhood into taking action. These two accounts have a similar theme, but that’s where connectivity ends.
We meet a street musician who tells a sorry tale of past hardships but now seems content with his lot. A much younger man relates a tragedy that paints a picture of an uncaring community, which is at odds with what has gone before.
To add to the confusion, a young girl appears from nowhere and dives headlong into a narration about her Irish lineage. This transition jars but what she has to say about her Celtic roots is fascinating. In fact, she gives the impression that she has enough material to fill an entire movie.
There can be no country richer in music and folk lore and tragedy and conflict than Ireland.
So perhaps the filmmakers decided that, with such a powerful backdrop, they didn’t have to try that hard. So they threw in a few fiddles, added some hornpipes and got their interviewees to kiss the Blarney Stone before the cameras rolled.
Unfortunately for them, however, the luck of the Irish didn’t stretch that far.
North Circular Release Details
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