Dying for it

Writer/ director Rachel Carey told David Hennessy about her debut film Deadly Cuts starring Angeline Ball which ponders issues like the struggles of the working- class and closes the forthcoming Irish Film London Festival.

This year’s Irish Film London Festival will be brought to a close by Dublin comedy Deadly Cuts, the story of a group of hairdressers who accidentally become vigilantes and community heroes.

Starring Angeline Ball, Victoria Smurfit and Pauline McLynn, the film is writer/ director Rachel Carey’s debut feature and while it can be slapstick, it has at its heart important themes such as community and working-class struggles.

Set in the fictional working-class Dublin neighbourhood of Piglinstown, Angeline Ball plays Michelle who, as proprietor of her own salon, must face intimidation by a local gang and a corrupt councillor who wants to shut the salon  as part of gentrification plans.

Michelle is the mother hen to her three girls: Stacey who is desperate to get away to Spain, Gemma who wants to broaden her horizons and Chantelle who can’t open her mouth without putting her foot in it.

When they can take being pushed around no more, the girls kill local bully Deano, played by Ian Lloyd Anderson.

While killing Deano was never planned and more a reaction to his relentless violence against them, it is then that they find that the area’s morale has been given an instant lift due to people not having to fear him anymore, while the guards are not killing themselves to find out where he went either.

When it is then announced that the shop will be closed to make way for fancy new apartments, the women resolve to enter an elite hairdressing competition where the working-class outfit will take on the city’s more exclusive salons reasoning that no one can close them down if they are an award-winning salon.

The film stars Ericka Roe, Lauren Larkin and Shauna Higgins as Michelle’s girls while the supporting cast also includes Pauline McLynn, Victoria Smurfit and Laurence Kinlan.

After being released in Irish cinemas on 8 October, the film has been well received at home.

Rachel Carey told The Irish World: “It’s had such a great reaction, a really brilliant response from people: Sold out screenings and it’s on track to be the biggest Irish film of the year which is amazing, given we have still got only 60% capacity in cinemas over here.

“It’s been really, really good.

“I try not to read everything that’s said about it, and I kind of stay away from the internet as much as I can.

“But generally, from what I’m hearing back, audiences are just really enjoying it and getting a great laugh out of it. When you’re making comedy, what else do you want?

“I wanted to make a Dublin film for Dublin people.

“It’s a real audiences’ film and I’ve just been thrilled that Joe Soap has been going to the cinema and loving it.

“That, for me, is job done.”

Rachel wanted to set her film about community in a hairdressers recognising the role they play in communities, something that was very much missed during the pandemic.

“Piglinstown is a figment of my imagination but it’s definitely based on reality and it’s based on real Dublin areas and communities.

“And it was really important to me that they were authentically represented.

“It’s a comedy. I don’t mean to sound too lofty about it.

“I think often that those kind of communities, stuff is made about them through a very middle class, upper class lens.

“It’s a bit of a, ‘Here’s what we think these worlds are like’.

“It was really important to me that people who are from areas like Piglinstown would watch it and go, ‘Yeah, you’ve got it. It’s right. Those are the issues but that is how great our community is as well’.

“Every major city has these little corners and communities especially in working class areas.

“But first and foremost, it was very much Dublin and the Dublin sense of community that is very unique to us, I think.

“I always wanted to make a film to showcase the Irish working class female voice which I think is such a funny voice, is such a unique voice.

“I always had that in the back of my mind when I was making shorts and stuff.

“And then the hairdressers just struck me as such a ripe territory for it. The idea was to do something in that environment.

“It absolutely is about community and about some bigger issues as well that are sort of tucked away in there and I guess that came from the experience of being hairdressers in those areas, and how they are at the heart of the community.

“And they’re such a hub of the community.

“And then on the other side, you’ve got the struggles that those communities tend to be caught up in socially, economically, whatever.”

Rachel was delighted to be able to assemble such a heavyweight cast for her first feature.

“I couldn’t believe my luck to be quite honest.

“I was mostly stressed about casting the girls because I knew I wanted them to be authentic working class Dublin young women who were brilliant comedic actresses, very good technical actors.

“There wouldn’t be that much visibility for people like that in the acting world over here, ‘How the hell am I going to find these girls?’

“Actually, I found the girls quite early on and they were just so right.

“Then getting Angeline was just like a dream. I couldn’t believe it.

“She read the script, wanted to jump on a call straightaway.

“And she’s a legend over here.

“She is the warmest, most brilliant person and we just had such a laugh and connected right away.

“And she’s a Cabra girl as well, so she got it and she got the world.

“She just came on board straightaway, was so enthusiastic and so invested from the get go.

“And from there then filling in those other roles with Pauline and Victoria I was like, ‘Really, she said she would do it?’ I couldn’t believe it.

“But they came in and they had such a good time.

“They’re brilliant actress, you forget that they just want to go out and have fun on a job sometimes.

“They saw the opportunity to have fun and they definitely had it.

“I was chuffed with everybody I got involved.

“There was no one who I wasn’t delighted with cast-wise.”

Angeline, also well known as a singer, rose to prominence all those years ago in The Commitments.

Does Rachel agree Deadly Cuts shares some themes with the Roddy Doyle classic? “Absolutely, it’s sort of the underdog story and a group from a working class area with a dream.

“It’s the music industry in The Commitments and the hairdressing industry here.

“But yeah, I think there are definitely parallels.

“And it’s such an iconic film, and the whole Barrytown trilogy.

“And if you look closely in Deadly Cuts, there are a couple of little homage moments in there to The Commitments and to The Snapper. Just little beats that you might spot.

“They are the iconic Dublin films of our generation.

“I definitely drew on them I suppose, how could you not?”

There are serious issues behind the film’s laughs. Main character Stacey wants to join her mother in Spain while in truth her mother abandoned her and does not want her to join her where she is.

“It was important to me that the characters weren’t just coedy puppets, two dimensional caricatures.

“Although it’s not a serious film, I wanted them to have a place that they were coming from with their goals and Stacey wants to win this competition and get out of Piglinstown but actually when you kind of dig a bit deeper her hatred for the area is coming from her ma leaving it.

“She wants to get out so she can be with her Mam. That’s what’s really driving her.

“Even in comedy, I think you really have to have something for your character to make them real and to make them meaty and to make them people that an audience will feel for and root for.

“There’s emotional elements to the story throughout it I think, to all the characters.”

When it closes the Irish Film London Festival, it will be the first time the film will be seen by a UK audience and Rachel is interested to see how it will be received.

“It will be wonderful to see how it goes because obviously we love UK film over here and Irish film tends to go down well over there.

“It’s always interesting to see how the humour lands, will people laugh at different bits?

“Because there’s always a surprise when you watch something with an audience, and I’m really looking forward to it.

“Because it’s such an authentically Dublin film. This is what Dublin sounds like, and this is what it looks like.

“And I think there hasn’t been a lot of that particularly in recent years.

“It’s really nice to do that and kind of say, ‘Here’s what our city is like, here’s what’s the community and the banter and the language is like’.

“And I always love that when I watch films from other countries, I always love to see those communities and the authenticity of them.

“I hope it will connect in that way and then in a more universal way as well.”

Deadly Cuts shows at Riverside Studios at 8pm on Sunday 21 November as part of London Irish Film Festival 2021.

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