Good craic: Celebrating Ireland on screen

It’s an excellent time to be a fan of Ireland’s prolific cultural output, particularly when it comes to spinning mesmerising tales on screens big and small. 

Martin McDonagh’s haunting fable The Banshees of Inisherin has garnered a swathe of awards and nominations, including a brace of nominations at the Academy Awards, beautiful Irish language film An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet GirI, which you can catch at SBS On Demand now) has been widely acclaimed, including a nomination for Best International Feature at the Oscars, with writer/directors Tom Berkeley and Ross White just this week taking home gold statuettes for Best Live Action Short Film, An Irish Goodbye and Dubliner Richard Baneham scooping up an Oscar for his visual effects work on Avatar: The Way of Water (Baneham won his first Oscar for Avatar in 2010).

We’ve got heaps of good craic popping up on SBS World Movies and over at SBS On Demand this month in the spirit of St Patrick’s Day, with a few of our faves highlighted below.

And if this little list leaves you with an insatiable hunger for Irish content, why not join celebrity chef Catherine Fulvio on her world tour, popping in on Irish diaspora to talk about their favourite dishes in Tastes Like Home? Or indulge in a spot of real estate porn with Great Irish Interiors.


The Guard

Oscar-nominee Brendan Gleeson stars in this peculiarly Irish black comedy from Banshees director McDonagh’s fine filmmaking brother John Michael. It casts Gleeson as a curmudgeonly garda (cop) posted in the back of Connemara’s beyond who grudgingly winds up in an unlikely team-up with Don Cheadle’s bemused FBI agent on a drug bust mission that goes predictably awry. A firecracker pairing of pitch-perfect actors that also features Mark Strong, who has perfected the part of British villain.

The Guard airs at 10.25pm, Friday 17 March on SBS World Movies, straight after My Left Foot at 8.30pm, in a St Patrick’s Day special double bill.  Both films will be available for 30 days after that at SBS On Demand.


Calm With Horses

While we’re on the subject of Irish Oscar nominees, Gleeson’s Banshees co-lead and Best Supporting Actor buddy Barry Keoghan, one of Ireland’s finest fast-rising stars, is a mercurially wicked presence in this regional Irish gangster drama. He plays Dympna, the head of a baaaaad family who recruits the also excellent Cosmo Jarvis’ hulking ex-boxer with a hidden heart of gold, Arm, as a reluctant enforcer in this bruising but brilliant film that turns the screw on toxic masculinity. Also look out for Jarvis’ magnetic Raised by Wolves co-star Niamh Algar as Arm’s long-suffering ex Ursula who’s just trying to shield their horse-loving five-year-old son on the autism spectrum from his dad’s mad, bad world.

Calm With Horses is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


The Dry

No, not the Australian crime thriller, but instead the Dublin-set sobering Irish television dramedy from the producers of Normal People. Roisin Gallagher (who popped up in The Fall) stars as former party-hard reprobate Shiv, who has shirked her heady London days to return home for her gran’s wake with every intention of staying on the straight and narrow. But family has a way of driving us to distraction, and the drink, as is the case in this potty-mouthed dark comedy with oodles of wittily observed barbs alongside its heartfelt portrait of the begrudging love shared by people who occasionally bewilder us.

Eight-part dramedy The Dry is now streaming at SBS On Demand.



The Dry director Paddy Breathnach also helmed this deeply affecting film about a young mum (with Bad Sisters lead Sarah Greene in the title role) who, alongside her husband (Moe Dunford), has to desperately find a new home for their four kids when evicted by their landlord. Staring down the very real possibility of homelessness in the face of Dublin’s obscenely soaring rents, what follows is a nail-biting day and a half. Working from a gripping screenplay by author, playwright and screenwriter Roddy Doyle (The Commitments), it’s compelling stuff, with Greene magnificent.

Rosie is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


Hidden Assets

If SBS, to you, spells Seriously Best Scandinoir, but you’re also open to shaking things up a little, then why not give this Irish variant a whirl? The Commitments star Angeline Ball portrays Emer Berry, a Criminal Assets Bureau officer, who follows her nose into a mighty big cross-border mess when diamonds found during a drug bust in Irish town Shannon lead her to a bombing plot in Antwerp and an odd couple pairing with Wouter Hendrickx’s Belgian cop Christian. With hints of The Bridge in how they work together across cultural differences, it’s also a gripping mystery that’s jam-packed with action.

Six-part series Hidden Assets is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


Taken Down

If Hidden Assets sounds like your kind of bingeing night in, you might want to pair it with this similarly bleak crime drama set in Dublin. Lynn Rafferty (who also pops up in North Sea Connection) plays a grizzled detective tasked with uncovering the secrets behind the brutal murder of a Nigerian-Irish teenager (Marlene Madenge). The case takes her to an asylum seeker support centre and a nearby brothel, both frequented by Aïssa Maïga’s cleaner Abeni. Also look out for Brendan Gleeson’s son and Bad Sisters star Brian as a cranky cop.

Six-part series Taken Down is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


Redemption of a Rogue

Fair warning of a cross-Celtic cultural reference, but when Edinburgh-born Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson sang, “I’m only happy when it rains,” she clearly wasn’t thinking about the precipitation predicament faced by prodigal son Jimmy (a deliciously deadpan Aaron Monaghan) in this kooky movie from writer/director Philip Doherty. A bad boy returned to his small-town daddy just in time for the cranky patriarch to pop off this mortal coil, Jimmy and his boisterous brother Damien (Kieran Roche) discover at the will reading that they’ll be disinherited if they bury him when it’s raining. Cue a never-ending downpour and a lot of hilarious sight gags, including a statue of the Virgin Mary brought to life and asking for a fag, naturally.

Redemption of a Rogue is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


A Bump Along the Way

If you need a bit of a cheer-up after all this death and mayhem, take a quick scoot just across the border to Northern Ireland for this baby bump drama set in Derry Girls country. Bronagh Gallagher (who briefly appears in that Netflix hit show) plays a 40-something, not entirely retired party girl whose hijinks are brought to a screeching halt when she realises she’s pregnant, much to the shock of both her and her much better-behaved teenage daughter Ally (Dating Amber lead Lola Petticrew). They’re both fab, and it’s a real hoot.

A Bump Along the Way is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


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