Rory O'Neill and Panti arrive on the big screen. Harry Guerin says the wait has been worth it.
Here's something that may have escaped you in the avalanche of releases and the daily mountains that we all have to climb: 2015 has been an amazing year for Irish movies. Glassland, Patrick's Day, I Used to Live Here and Song of the Sea have all enriched lives with another award-winner, Brooklyn, to come next month. (2016 will also get off to a great start with Lenny Abrahamson's Room.)
Before that, however, October's homegrown must-see sashays into cinemas; if you decide to follow you should feel all the better for it an hour-and-a-half later - like the finest of stuff, there's something so very us but universal about The Queen of Ireland. Five years in the filming, the story of Rory O'Neill's journey from Ballinrobe to Panti to conduit for change to global attention to the Marriage Equality Referendum and back to Ballinrobe again has the narrative arc that those behind the lens always dream of. And as for the heart...
In terms of both subject and subject matter, director Conor Horgan was embedded in a treasure trove here, but he skilfully blends the personal and political in such a way that The Queen of Ireland doesn't lose momentum or leave anyone who's watching behind. If anything, the film should have been longer.
From humour to poignancy, love to loneliness and fantasy to the everyday, it's a documentary filled with contrasts and one where you get some sense of what it must be like to walk in another man's shoes - and heels. O'Neill's gift for being candid and comical in the same sentence is evident throughout and one of the two biggest eye-openers in The Queen of Ireland is that, despite all the show-must-go-on bravado, he may not yet realise that he has even more to offer. Behind the glitter there is such gold that it would be a real shame if there weren't more adventures for O'Neill in the screen trade, be they factual or fiction.
The other is just how much things have changed in what feels - yes, easy for some to say - so short a timeframe: truly, the past is another country. Whatever the future may hold, the generations to come have the best of reminders and road maps with this film. They, like us, will know how things turn out on screen here but as with the finest of documentaries, it still comes as a surprise.
Suckers for a happy ending will be in Shangri-La.
Harry Guerin 5/5