Albert Finney’s career had phases rather than just a highlights; while his 80’s output was something of an anti-climax for the actor who burst into world cinema in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, by the 1990’s, there were increasing opportunities to see the great man giving it both barrels. In Suri Krishnamma’s charming comedy-drama, Finney excels as Alfred Byrne, a gay bus-conductor who feels forced to repress his sexuality due to the mores of the time. His unrequited passion for fellow driver (Rufus Sewell) remains just so, but Byrne sees an opportunity when the striking Adele Rice (Tara Fitzgerald) gets on his bus. He quickly arranges a performance of Oscar Wilde’s Salome with Adele as the star, but emboldened by Wilde’s words, Byrne’s attempts to reveal his true nature end badly for him. With the atmosphere of 1963 Dublin persuasively caught, A Man of No Importance is one of these lucky films that sees great talent well harnessed; after Finney’s death, this was deservedly mentioned alongside Tom Jones, Under The Volcano and The Dresser as amongst Finney’s best.
Glenn Close picked up an Oscar nomination for this original and intriguing film; she plays Albert Nobbs, a meticulous butler living in late 19th century Ireland. The arrival of Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) at the Dublin hotel Nobbs works in predicates a crisis for both of them; they understand each other’s secrets, as they are both women who manage to make their living by pretending to be men and duping everyone else as to their real gender. Page and Nobbs develop a friendship that promises an escape; a scene where they take a liberated run down the beach in women’s clothing is a remarkable feat of acting in that they look like men in drag. Having played Nobbs onstage, Close delivers a sensationally androgynous performance, McTeer matches her, and the supporting cast, including Brendan Gleeson, Pauline Collins and Mia Wasikowska create a vivid picture of a rarely documented sociological phenomenon, presented with taste and restraint by director Rodrigo Garcia. Screen-story credited to Istvan Szabo.
Now a successful Broadway musical, Once is a bittersweet romance set on the streets of Dublin, between a guy and a girl, both unnamed. Played by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, they are an unemployed musician and a young immigrant girl brought together by their love of making music. The tender nature of their relationship is engagingly caught by writer/director John Carney, with the image of the girl trailing her broken vacuum cleaner around the city summing up the whimsical but realistic tone. An Oscar-winner for best song, Once is an uplifting film about and for music lovers; Hansard is still touring today, playing his songs to appreciative audiences.