Directed by Dudi Appleton. Starring Kris Marshall, James Nesbitt, Kathy Kiera Clarke, Bronagh Gallagher, Tara Lynn O'Neill, Kenneth Cranham, Olivia Nash and Pauline McLynn.
In a year that brought us south-of-the-border feel-good movie 'When Brendan Met Trudy', Dudi Appleton's directorial debut follows hot on the heels of Barry Levinson's 'An Everlasting Piece' in offering a new take on life in Northern Ireland – one that leaves the politics and not the GSOH at the door.
24-year-old virgin Catholic Eamonn Manley (Marshall) is your average red-haired, long-limbed Belfast geek. Working for the Amoré dating agency ("Your love is our affair"), he wears flowery shirts and reads comics; dogs on the street chew at his trouser legs and every day he buys flowers for the girl of his dreams – and ends up bringing them home to his Ma.
But when local tart-with-a-heart Mary Mallory (O'Neill) picks Eamonn as her latest conquest she gets more than she bargained for – Eamonn has a gift and no condom's gonna get in its way. Eamonn's willing to do the right thing by pregnant Mary but she's a Protestant and anyway she decides someone with better prospects should carry the can.
From his "success" with Mary, Eamonn gains the courage to begin courting his true love Rosie (Clarke), daughter of the local funeral parlour owner. She begins to fall for his peculiar charms but is oblivious to his growing reputation. In an incident that would be disturbing if it wasn't so bizarre, childless local woman Maeve (a typically quirky McLynn) breaks into Eamonn's bedroom and has her way with him – the instant result proving the rumours are more than urban myth. It seems Eamonn is the most fertile man in Ireland.
And so begins a whirlwind life-change for shy Eamonn; his co-worker at the dating agency, Millicent (Gallagher), sets him up as a one-man service agency; she looks after the business, while he "does" the business. What's more, the whole operation has the support of the Catholic Church – compared to IVF, Eamonn's "the natural solution".
But it soon comes to the attention of former Protestant paramilitary Billy Wilson (Nesbitt) - who also fancies Eamonn's Rosie – that if things carry on like this the Catholics will soon outnumber those on his side. So it's time for a kidnapping and a hilarious parody of every on-screen abduction scene you've ever seen in which Eamonn has to decide whose side he's "f*cking" for now.
There are some funny gags and some great acting (Marshall is a real find as the laughable but loveable anti-hero Eamonn), but the look of the film is what sets it apart. Director Dudi Appleton was clear in his intentions "there is to be no grey in this film," he told production designer Tom Conroy ('East is East', 'The Boy from Mercury'), director of photography Ronan Fox and costume designer Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh - and the trio have done him proud. The editing is fast and clever (Emer Reynolds), and the screen glows with vibrant colour and visual puns.
Appleton grew up Jewish in Belfast – an experience that offered him a kind of outsiders view of the Troubles. Here he keeps the political divide firmly in the background; like some kind of garish wallpaper the characters are always aware of it, but don't let it stop them getting on with their lives. Instead he focuses on the more universal problem of falling sperm count and its incumbent question – in a world where women can do everything else, have men lost their final use?
So forget the politics, take this crazy premise as your starting point and settle down for a couple of hours in the dark with 'The Most Fertile Man in Ireland': satisfaction guaranteed!