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The glass may be half empty but it will contain good whiskey. I write film reviews for http://www.scannain.com/ , say hi and we can debate films forever and ever and ever...... Warning this blog may contain more than just film talk.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Film Review - Pyjama Girls (2010)

There is a point about 15 minutes into Maya Derrington's feature length documentary Pyjama Girls where children are playing outside in a Ballyfermot street. The camera frames them in the garden with the corner of the frame taken up with the bonnet of a red car. It is an icy day and scraped into the ice on the car are the words 'fuck you'. The two kids come out of the garden and go over to the car. One matter-of-factly reads out the message to the other and they both giggle. The black (or some would say Irish) humour is what takes Pyjama Girls out of the category of misery doc to something much more interesting and fulfilling.

The story primarily concerns two teenage girls, Lauren and Tara. Initially the film is about their friendship and its importance. This is followed by them, and their friends, wearing brightly coloured pyjamas in public and showing them shopping for them in city stores. However, like all good documentaries the title is a little misleading. The story of the pyjamas may well be a way in to these girls’ lives but the stories told within those lives, is where the heart of this film lies. The pyjamas themselves are no different than a punk rocker’s mohawk or a hippie’s colourful jumper: a way of shocking the world outside of your control. That the country decided to get into a bit of a state about this (heard in radio snippets in the film) says more about slow news days than anything else.

The real story here concerns the tragic background of Lauren's family: split apart by a drug addict mother (not seen in the film), her life up to this point has been one of being moved around to different family members. Lauren talks about living with her grandmother and the frightening manner of meetings with her drunken mother with a thoughtfulness and maturity that belies the fact that she has been expelled from school. Wasted potential like this is perhaps the saddest tragedy of this film. There are some really tense and terse scenes within the film itself. Unseen fights with groups of other girls are bragged about while standing endlessly outside of supermarkets. There is a family scene when Lauren's younger sister is painting Lauren's fingernails and the subject of their mother comes up. This scene is really moving as it is clear how fragile they all are, full of emotions unspoken just beneath the surface.

This is a terrific documentary. It touches on various important subjects such as loyalty and friendship. It also obliquely mentions one of the greatest tragedies of the late 20th century in Dublin, the effects of which are still being felt by both Lauren's and her mother’s generation: namely the decimation of the inner city of Dublin by heroin. That story itself would take another film to tell. The style of the film is quite dreamy with blurred visions of night time Dublin placed alongside a jagged and suitable electronic score. The major plus here is the light and objective direction by Derrington. She lets these girls tell their stories without judgement or condemnation. She leaves it up to the viewer to make judgements. In the end the pyjamas do become very important in one way. They are a blooming of hope in riotous colour in a very bleak and dreary world. That in itself is enough reason for their existence.


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