The debate about what constitutes an Irish film is likely to go on and on with films like P.S. I Love You being released. This issue has been mentioned in previous posts on this blog and it is interesting to see how broad the definition is. If the money comes from outside Ireland (like it has on films such as Michael Collins) does this mean it is not an Irish film? The debates on where the lines are drawn are perhaps for another time. P.S. I Love You is from a novel by Irish writer Cecelia Ahern and a good portion of the filming takes place in Ireland. For the purposes of this review it will be considered an Irish film. The other important question here is whether the film is any good.
The short answer is a resolute no. The story is a slight but fairly interesting one. It is the story of a couple: Irishman Gerry (Gerard Butler) and Irish American Holly (Hilary Swank). They have been together a few years before Gerry gets sick and dies. The rest, as they say, is history. Only here in true Hollywood style he lives on in the form of 10 letters he has organised to be delivered to Holly at various moments over the following year. Being a film, he helpfully appears in flashbacks as the letters are received. This is the device used to move the story along. But there is so much more to say about this film, I am not sure where to begin.
The accents are a good place. Butler has a certain charm about him but I would really have transplanted the setting of the story to Scotland in order to geographically locate what he is attempting with his accent here. It is genuinely an accent not of this parish. At the opening of the film the couple are having one of those classic film arguments couples have about life, marriage etc. During the argument Gerry uses the word bollocks and Holly points out that he should speak English so she can understand him. She obviously thinks it’s a gaelic word. It is not. It is this level of laziness from the makers of the film that will have you shaking your head. Another example of this is the use of Fairytale of New York at Gerry’s wake. It is the most bizarrely edited version of the song. It sounds like the song was cut for a trailer and never restored properly.
The pity here is that as central ideas for a romantic comedy goes, this one has a lot of potential. But the problem lies with the execution. Director Richard LaGravenese shoots the film in the flattest way imaginable. Even the rolling hills of Ireland so beloved by Americans, have a lifeless feel. But the real problem is with the script. I have not read the book on which the film is based but I would be very surprised if the character of Holly is as hateful as she is in the film. Played with a cold brittleness by Swank, there is just no way that Gerry would fall in love with a woman like this. She is given no redeeming features whatsoever which gives Swank nowhere to go. This is what kills the film really.
There is a strong supporting cast given absolutely nothing to do at all. Actors such as Lisa Kudrow (essentially playing Phoebe from Friends), Kathy Bates and Gina Gershon all seem to stand around looking embarrassed to be there. They even have Harry Connick Jnr play a love interest but instead of being suave and say, a musician! he is a barman and genuinely creepy if not quietly psychotic. Tonally the film is all over the place, with knockabout comedy following a serious and emotional moment. It tries to have its cake and eat it but is unsuccessful at being either funny or tragic.
The funniest scene (unintentionally) of the whole film happens towards the end where Holly, suddenly decides she wants to design shoes for a living. There follows a hilarious shoe designing montage that wouldn’t look out of place in Team America. She is then all of a sudden a shoe designer for a shoe company after doing a quick course. This is all done with a po-faced seriousness that you would nearly call satire if you didn’t know the intention.
Overall this is a remarkably badly made film. The consensus should be to exclude it from the list of Irish films in the future as it will drag our National Cinema down a couple of rungs. It is to some degree easy to have a go at a film like this. But as our own cinema struggles financially it is worth noting that this film made over $150 million at the box office. This is why the Ireland is represented on screen in this way. Do not put your money in your pocket for nonsense like this. Otherwise we will just be served up more. Watch, if you dare.