reputation for the gift of the gab and its high rate of people attending
college it is surprising that there hasn’t been more films about people leaving
education and finding their feet in life. Trampoline,
at its centre, tells the story of an educated woman in her mid 20s trying to
make sense of the world with no real experience of it. It has a feeling of the
indies that litter film festivals these days (St. Francis Ha anyone?) but has its own easygoing charm. Trampoline’s main story involves Angie
(Aoife Spratt) who returns home to Nenagh from US to take up a temporary teaching
position at a local school. She reconnects with her family and friends at the
same time as she tries to make sense of where she is going. Plot-wise this is
about the size of it in Tom Ryan’s micro budget debut feature film. There is
certain trepidation in watching debut Irish features particularly with a very
small budget: you want them to be good because it is clearly a heroic endeavour
to get a film made and released with practically no money. They are generally
passion projects and the last thing filmmakers want to hear is a reviewer
dumping on their dreams. Watching the first twenty or so minutes of Trampoline, I had started to worry.
There was the familiar tension in the family reunion with a past issue to be
resolved. There was also a group of bored girls to be reached in the classroom
so the potential for a Dead Poets Society
scenario hung over the early part of the film. London
Happily Ryan avoided most of these pitfalls quite smartly. The family issues were brought to the fore, notably in a terrific scene between Aoife and her mum (Margaret Walsh) but were not overdone. It also turns out quite refreshingly that Aoife is not that much of a teacher and her methods are questionable to say the least (watch out for her recommendation instead of reading The Great Gatsby). The real issue in this film is about the place in society for people who leave college qualified and enter into a job market with no jobs. The real question for Aoife is ‘should she stay or should she go?’ This is discussed directly and indirectly over the course of the film with fellow teacher Maria (Niamh Algar), best friend Kate (Audrey Hamilton) and love interest everyman James (Eddie Murphy) who dreams of getting out.
This is a film that could easily slip past you without you noticing. It is a slight thing, full of tiny moments. There are some scenes early on in the film that could have been edited a little tighter as they tend to go on a little. But the last 20 – 25 minutes of the film is where it really works. Most of this is down to the wonderful Aoife Spratt who anchors the film in a very real way. She has a young Pauline Mc Lynn vibe, all charm and mischievous eyes. Indeed it is wonderful to see a woman in the main role of an Irish film, it really doesn’t happen very often. My main fault with the film is that at times it is almost too wordy, particularly in the early part. In the second half it becomes a little more about visual storytelling and the film is better for it. There is a beautiful final shot that is a perfect example of how to show something instead of telling you something. It is delightful.
Director Tom Ryan has made a low key film that will probably divide audiences a little bit. If the charm washes over you it will be an enjoyable experience. If not, you may find yourself a little bored. But Ryan is a writer and director to watch out for. Given a decent budget and a more ambitious scope he could well become an important Irish filmmaker over the next few years.
Trampoline goes on release from the 21st February at the Ormond Cineplex Nenagh.