Irish talent hits award season

Fionnuala Walsh

All eyes are on Saoirse Ronan after her latest film LadyBird earned her another oscar nomination, making 3 by the age of twenty three. Daniel Day Lewis and Martin McDonagh also got nods from the Academy, as well as animated film The Breadwinner. Irish talent has dominated the states in recent years, but the Irish Film and Television Awards also showcase excellence in the growing Irish film industry.


A film that has been recognised in Ireland and abroad is Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. The story of a mother’s unconventional approach to solving her daughter’s brutal murder is a showcase for the lead actors Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. The London-Irish director was nominated in both the Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture categories in the 90th Academy Awards, as well as the film racking up 5 IFTA nominations.


The Killing of a Sacred Deer is also nominated for 4 IFTA’s, due to its two lead Irish actors Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan. The haunting film follows a renowned surgeon and his family whose idyllic life becomes the obsession of an unsettling boy. This is Farrell’s second time working with director Yorgos Lanthimos after appearing in the equally off-kilter thriller The Lobster. Farrell and Keoghan deliver the tense dialogue in a cold manner that leaves a shiver on your skin even after the credits roll.


The Breadwinner, an animated film created by Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon and executive produced by Angelina Jolie was nominated in the best animated feature film category at the Academy Awards. The film tells the unflinching story of 11-year-old Parvana who lives in Afghanistan under Taliban rule in 2001.


This is the third Oscar nod for Cartoon Saloon who made their name with Irish fantasy films such as The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. Their unique 2d style first came to international attention with their feature film The Secret of Kells, and the company has gone on to produce short films and television series such as Puffin Rock that was adopted by Nick Jr. and Netflix.


Saoirse Ronan received her third Oscar nomination for her part in Greta Gerwig’s coming of age film LadyBird. Ronan plays LadyBird, a headstrong, outspoken teenager navigating her senior year in a strict catholic high school.


The greatest strength of the film is the central mother-daughter relationship which captures the warmth and vulnerability of growing up in a low income family. Laurie Metcalf plays her sometimes judgemental, but well-meaning mother, and elevates Ronan’s performance in every scene they share.


Daniel Day Lewis made headlines recently with his decision to leave acting, a realisation that came to him after he finished filming his latest movie Phantom Thread. The Wicklow-based actor plays a fashion designer whose life is changed when his artistic muse falls in love with him.


It is no surprise that Day Lewis was nominated for Best Actor in a leading role category, having won the award three times previously for My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood and Lincoln.


Handsome Devil is a sweet-natured story of two boys, a star athlete and a loner, who become unlikely friends at their rugby-obsessed boarding school. Sherlock’s Andrew Scott plays the typical kindly teacher who gets involved in the lives of the boys, and earns an IFTA nomination for his role along with newcomer Fionn O’Shea. Although the coming-of-age story can feel formulaic and on the nose at times, there is a sweet and earnest message of acceptance in the film that Hollywood productions can sometimes lack.


“Maudie”, a film starring Shape of Water’s Sally Hawkins received 6 nominations at the IFTAS, including best feature film and best director for Aisling Walsh. Drug-fuelled crime drama Cardboard Gangsters and Irish space documentary The Farthest earned 5 nominations each.


The IFTAs also celebrate Irish achievement in television, and Irish-based Vikings received the highest number of 6 nominations, with Game of Thrones and Peaky Blinders just behind at 5.


Some controversy arose when the IFTA nominations list was initially announced, as users on twitter immediately noticed that there were only three nominees for Actress in a Leading Role, in contrast the five nominees in the equivalent male category.

IFTA executives responded saying that there just weren’t enough roles written for females this year. “More work needs to be done from an industry perspective and obviously the Film Board will continue to deal with and address those issues in terms of encouraging more development in areas that need development,” chief executive of the IFTAs Áine Moriarty told

The actresses nominated in the category included Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird, Sarah Bolger for her role in Halal Daddy and Ann Skelly for Kissing Candice.

There is no doubt that the Irish talent in the film industry deserves recognition and praise.