The pot of gold at the end of Vic Sarin’s rainbow is filled with magnificent scenery/cinematography (Sarin’s shots of Ireland’s Inishowen Peninsula were beautifully executed and skilfully framed), fine orchestral sound (notably the principal oboe of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra), engaging folk music (thanks to the lively readings from The Henry Girls), deft editing and better-than-average acting (John Bell’s already impressive emotional-range and endearingly-freckled visage make his portrayal of eight-year-old orphan, Tomás, a reason in itself to see this production).
Sadly, frustratingly, the script (a trio of writers including Sarin adapted Lillian Beckwith’s novel) is so rife with stereotypical situations (bullying the stammering, parentless boy on his last day in “captivity” and arrival at the isolated island town of Corrie) and black-then-white character development, that the hope (audience) and desire (filmmaker) for a whimsical tale of magical belief is shipwrecked on the just-below-the-surface rocks, protecting the dramatic coastline of narrative excellence.
Connie Nielsen infuses the part of barren Maire O’Donnell with a marvellous combination of joy and understanding which, at first, makes the adoptive-mother-to-be a pleasure in every calamity—including her own.
Husband Alec’s (Aidan Quinn) clear disappointment that his sudden son isn’t a man’s man (and a slight redhead to boot!) begins with the promise of curmudgeonly conversion, but, in order for the film to fill its allotted time, is forced to remain conveniently off-screen until there’s virtually no one else left in the late innings.
Unbelievable is the warmth and adoration shown for his wife in the face of industrial-strength rejection of the young lad with the beguiling charm of the frail. The couple’s obvious deep-seated bliss is immediately belied by Alec’s reluctance to even try to make his nervous charge feel at home.
The far-too-convenient, plot-lazy overheard husband-wife conversations ring false with every line. Finally, the let’s-move-a-boulder-then-have-a-pint-and-ignore-the-first-real-chance-of-father-(affectionately known as Himself)-son bonding sets a key plot point in motion even as it blows the last chance of credibility out of the bay.
Thank goodness for the little people—er, animals that is. Sludge-the-baby-seal ought to be nominated for best supporting mammal. The painfully-obvious metaphor of the beached creature being cared for and nurtured by the orphan is only made bearable thanks to the fish-eating, pelt-in-waiting’s ever-expressive eyes and mythical ability of relaying messages to “the other side.” Ben-the-dog is an able sheep herder and exceedingly loyal but fails to yelp a hello when his longtime master returns from the city with devastating news. The chickens are “cluckingly” adorable (still, no cock crows) and routinely productive; an angry seagull provides the impetus for the rescue scene as effectively as the pissed-off bats scare the be-Jesus out of Tomás while visiting the “secret hideout” of his school chums (Jack Gleeson, Tara Alice Scully). The love-interest subplot, successfully spawned by Scully, ignites but soon becomes as expendable as Maire’s personal effects (once their purpose has been accomplished, both women become as rare as, well, fully-formed rainbows).
With so much to admire, more’s the pity that an extreme story-makeover wasn’t ordered before the first call for “action.” JWR