When Emer Reynolds was trying to get Olivia Colman to star in her feature film debut Joyride, she wrote the Oscar-winning actress a letter.
That is, Reynolds quotes the poem by Seamus Heaney, Postscriptin which he writes of a meditative car journey through the west of Ireland:
“The haste through which the known and the strange pass/
When large soft cushions pass by the car /
And catch the heart off guard and blow it out. “
In the end, Reynolds will create something like Heaney’s sentence – a film that captures the full cinematic beauty of the Irish countryside. It was shot on location in Kerry, where rainbows frame the rugged landscape – and leave the heart open.
Joyride is a comedic, emotional coming-of-age movie in which a young boy Mully (talented newcomer Charlie Reid) falls into a shipwreck, Joy – Colman – who is reeling from the death of her mother . Her baby girl was born just a few months after her mother died and she felt unable to be a mother.
Her plan is to abandon the child, leaving her with a friend of hers while she flies to Lanzarote, but the sudden appearance of Mully, the dead biological mother, complicates matters further. They drive across the country – with him at the helm – and, all of a sudden, he teaches this ailing older fugitive about nurturing and tenderness.
Reynolds was drawn to Ailbhe Keogan’s script, and Joy’s character seemed to float in the face of the anodyne qualities commonly associated with motherhood: “powder, floral, soft and supple.”
“I was very interested in creating something that could look at motherhood in all its different aspects,” Reynolds says. “It is the story of three mothers. Joy is terrible at giving away her baby because of some silly theory she has – that it’s better for her and better for the baby.
“We see in the movie that her mother has encountered some dark, and perhaps not the happiest, life with Joy in her youth. And then Charlie’s mother, who passed away, misses very much – and an incredible loss for him.
“So through the script and through the film, I considered different questions. What is a mother? What makes a mother? And do you need a mother? The effect of a mother what?”
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It’s perhaps no surprise that Colman was so sure about getting involved. Her recent work – most notably her Oscar-nominated performance in Daughter is gone – has brilliantly explored the unspoken ambiguities of motherhood.
But questions about the mother’s loss have also informed Reynolds’ life. When she was four years old, her mother, Mercedes, died of breast cancer.
“I hope I don’t start crying,” she began. “I have only very few memories – really flashy – of everyday happenings.
“I remember when my dad and my sister went out, went to school and went to work, mom would take me and two others [siblings] back to bed in the morning.
“She was kind of a mythical creature to me growing up. She was always described as being too good an angel for this world – I think adults do it to save children – and just As an adult, I just started connecting with her as a human.”
Her father, Seán, continued to care for her and her siblings – and their time was split between their home in Rahny and their aunt and uncle’s dairy farm in Tipperary.
“We had a very happy life. I credit him for some of my instincts. He is a proper intellectual – loves to read, loves novels, loves literature and science. “
She remembers seeing the movie 12 angry men at school when she was 16 years old.
“I had never seen a movie like that before – and I went home and had a long discussion with my dad about persuasion and prejudice, and all the ideas related to how the movie was going. That night I went to bed thinking that the movie could change the world.”
Her father was her “north, south, east and west” – so when she was 18 and he died suddenly of a heart attack, it was a blow that “almost overshadowed the loss.” of my mother.
“It’s been 30 years now and I still wake up every now and then and I simply can’t believe it’s actually real. It resonates in my life to this day.
“I think I grew up thinking that, because our mother died, nothing could happen to him. It was like I made some kind of weird deal with the universe. When he died, he didn’t have a will. We also thought he thought he couldn’t die because he was the only parent standing between us and the disaster.”
After his death, Emer lost his way, dropping out of his math and physics degrees at Trinity College.
“Now I can see from a bird’s eye view, looking down on those years, that I was really lost – really felt how I could go on, and that was the movie that saved me. after the loss of my father.”
Filmmaker Sé Merry Doyle raised her and she trained for a number of years as an assistant editor, before becoming an editor of her own accord.
Over the next decades, she researched on various topics, including Song for When I’m Away (a great documentary about Phil Lynott); 2014 poignant film based on Glasnevin Cemetery, One million Dubliners; and This is Cuba, an outstanding documentary about the Cuban Missile Crisis. She also edited one of the most successful Irish feature films of all time, I went down.
If there’s one thread that unites these disparate themes, it’s summed up in the words written on her desk today – humanities, heart, humour.
“Those are the things that I’ve always been after,” she said. “And now I want to add ‘hope’ and ‘heal’.”
Those themes are intertwined with her most famous project to date – Furthesta documentary about the space program Voyager for which she won an Emmy in 2018.
“I wanted to make a film about science and space to express my feelings about it. It is not cold and analytical. It’s all about the heart, it’s about beauty. It’s a movie about love, about death, about the afterlife, and the pain you feel when you look up at the night sky. “
She lived and worked in England for many years, but in the 2000s she moved back to Ireland to be closer to her nieces and nephews. She is in a relationship with Olivier Award-winning actor Brendan Coyle, who played the servant in Downton Abbey – for many years, and they are still friends.
She met her husband of 18 years, Tony Cranstoun, when they worked together on a BBC series called Funland. They have continued to work together and he is the editor on Furthest and now, on Joyride.
She said “he is my double editor” and added that, in creating Joyrideshe “tried to show what I was after, tried to entice him to plow [creative] field. And I listen to him if he wants to go the other way, or if he’s challenging me, or wants to try something different. It’s a learning curve – I won’t lie – but I love it. “
Joyride recently premiered at Galway Film Fleadh, where the screening was a scene of “big laughs and huge tears”.
Sitting in the movie theater, watching it among strangers for the first time, there was a stream of opinions that popped up for her – when Joy started telling a friend about the complicated emotions that were coming her way.
“Her friend told her, ‘You’ve been turned inside out.’ And for Joy, it’s about having a baby and allowing yourself to be a mother, allowing yourself to be enough, allowing yourself to love this child. “
For Reynolds himself, the film did the same thing.
“It broke down some of the carefully built walls and allowed me to say, ‘Losing my mother was important and changed me, that’s okay, and we survived, and the love she has for me. We, though she is gone, still exist.”
“So the crying was emotional – for me and for the audience. And I hope Joyride will continue to heal a little in the world. “
‘Joyride’ is currently being released nationwide
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/how-three-tales-of-motherhood-convinced-olivia-colman-to-take-a-joyride-in-kerry-41879317.html How three stories of motherhood convinced Olivia Colman to take Joyride in Kerry