Winner of the Galway Film Fleadh's Best Irish Feature, 'The Runway' is a heart-warming comedy, loosely based on the true story of a South American pilot who crash landed his plane in Cork in 1983. Inspired by the ‘Reeling in the Years’ coverage of this unbelievable yet true story, writer/director Ian Power adds a number of subplots to his debut feature.
He introduces Condon’s (‘The Last Station’) Grace, a fiery single mum who has led her nine-year-old son Paco (Kierans debut) to believe that his absentee father is Spanish. In a bid to connect with him, Paco diligently sets about learning the language in the hope of an eventual meeting.
His efforts pay great dividends, just not in the way that he or his mother could ever have imagined. In an introduction that mirrors E.T.’s, Paco comes face to face with the mysterious Colombian pilot, Ernesto and their lives change forever. Desperate for attention and a father-figure he eagerly acts as translator, hatching a plan to keep the pilot in the tired town of Dromoleen.
Oddly Ernesto ('Weeds’ Bichir) landed in the right place at the right time for the recession-riddled locals, who, led by Cosmo’s character (‘Braveheart’ favourite), come together in order to get him and his world-weary plane back on track.
Power has made an impressive debut, not least of all for attracting renowned Latin-American actor Bichir , who is best known on this side of the Atlantic for his role as Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Che’. Demián's younger brother, Bruno also makes his Irish debut in the film, as Francisco, a Colombian eager to track down the pilot and his cargo.
However the director does present a tenuous link between revolutionaries that might make Irish audiences wince in a scene that features the IRA and a Che Guevara, of sorts.
The Spielberg inspired Power does make excellent use of his €2.7 million budget with immersive special effects and his set, which includes the construction of the runway and the plane on location in Schull, West Cork.
Bichir is superb in the role of unlikely and reluctant hero, as is Condon and the young Kierans, who is on screen throughout.
This pacey comedy is a nostalgic reminder of simpler times in a cash-poor, community-rich Ireland and combined with wonderful performances, is a gem of a family film.