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That They May Face The Rising Sun 15

Pat Collins, UK, Ireland, 2023, 107m.

Capturing a year in the life of a rural, lakeside community in late 1970s Ireland, That They May Face The Rising Sun is a sensitive and beautifully realised adaptation of the last novel by John McGahern. Joe (Barry Ward) and Kate (Anna Bederke) have returned from London to live and work in a small, close-knit community in rural Ireland, close to where Joe grew up. He’s a writer, she’s an artist who retains part ownership of a London gallery. Now embedded in a remote lakeside setting, the drama of a year in their lives and those of their neighbours unfolds through the rituals of work, play and the passing seasons. A delicate, meditative exploration of ritual, community bonds, and the question of how best to live.

The Garden Cinema View:

Perhaps it’s time to pack it all in and start again in the countryside. Here’s a film that presents such a notion as perfectly feasible. Joe and Kate Ruttledge retain their London-artist-adjacent work whilst enjoying the pastoral beauty of Loch Nafooey in County Galway. Their lives are only as dramatic as ours. Seasons change, friends and neighbours pass by. Life passes and lives pass on. A car number registration playfully reads: ‘OZU’, although That They May Face the Rising Sun has more in common with Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days than directly with the likes of Tokyo Story. The sense of location is particularly powerful here, and much of the film's pleasures lie in the immersive visuals and sounds of Western Ireland. There is a certain strange smiling benevolence in Barry Ward’s lead performance which holds the more weathered locals as eccentric curiosities; their problems cast into relief by the Ruttledges’ somewhat condescending contentment. But admittedly, this may just be envy speaking.

Barry Ward, Anna Bederke, Lalor Roddy, Sean McGinley, Ruth McCabe

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