This very day of importance and wonder – The Nation Holds Its Breath (Raindance Festival Short Film Review)

Last Wednesday saw the launch of the 24th London Raindance Festival. It also marked a very big occasion for writer/director Kev Cahill – it was the world premiere of his short The Nation Holds its Breath. Its title is taken from the famous words uttered by legendary RTE commentator George Hamilton during the penalty shootout of the 1990 semi-final World Cup match between Ireland and Romania. Unsurprisingly the film focuses on that very day – the 25th June 1990 – but the most important football match in Irish history ends up playing second fiddle to the story of a man (Sam Keeley) torn between watching the match and witnessing the love of his life (Kate Gilmore) give birth to his firstborn child.

The result, produced Joey Horvitz of The Weinstein Company as part of this third season of Lexus Short Films – a partnership between Lexus International and The Weinstein Company to support up-and-coming filmmakers is truly wonderful. The film is nigh-on perfect. From the opening sequence, with our young couple trying out maternity breathing exercises before kick off, until the final credits you will have a huge grin on your face. It’s that damn good.

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Being in the waiting room, be that as patient or visitor is a universal experience. It’s also one that has been shown many times before in film – yet never quite like this. There’s comedy, tragedy and even some tragicomedy. Cahill has skillfully blended the sense of community that comes with such historic national occasions with the sheer terror of a father-to-be. Whilst maintaining a lighthearted tone it has great depth and poignancy – courtesy of a pithy script and excellent performances from the cast.

The rapport between Keeley and maternal-figure Barbara Brennan makes from some stand-out scenes that are full of warmth and pathos. Their dialogue during these sequences possess the right amount of self-awareness without being grating, instead it is supremely endearing. We truly care about these character who we have only just meet and they have been brought to life so effectively that we feel immensely concerned when complications arise.

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The continuous parallel between the all-important match and the all-important birth is maintained throughout the film unbelievably successfully. The occasional animations highlighting the time/score both alleviate and build the tension  as we wait alongside our new-found friends. A mention is also much-deserved for Oliver Loncraine’s beautiful cinematography which manages to make a drab and dreary hospital look surprisingly sublime. The snippets of Gaelic music also adds to the sense of mythicism and melody, fully reinforcing that this very day is a day of importance and wonder.

Did you enjoy Good Vibrations, Sing Street and The Guard? Do you have a pulse? Then you’ll love this as much as I did.

5/5

Dir: Kev Cahill

Scr: Kev Cahill

Cast: Sam Keeley, Kate Gilmore, Barbara Brennan, Ally NiChiarain

Prd: Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, David Glasser

DOP: Oliver Loncraine

Country: Ireland

Year: 2016

Run time: 16 minutes

The Nation Holds Its Breath had its world premiere at the opening night of Raindance Film Festival, London. Release date TBC.