Bra Vo

Winner of the Best First Film award at last year’s Galway Film Fleadh, Marian Quinn’s charming, tender 32A is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story set in Dublin’s Raheny in 1979. We first meet 13 year-old Maeve (Ailish McCarthy) as she tries on her first bra, the measurement the same at the bus route to her suburban estate. Maeve and her friends are obsessed with breasts and bras, staring chest-height at other women and endlessly discussing their burgeoning pubescence. From there, the formative events of Maeve’s young life are covered in a familiar rite of passage, from her first period to her first kiss and her first disco (the Northside’s legendary Grove, complete with DJ Cecil Nolan in a cameo). When they meet at a party and spend an innocent night racing around a garden, Maeve starts dating the local heartthrob, sixteen year old Brian Power (Shane McDaid). Her friends can’t believe it, and their sense of injustice is doubled when Maeve skips an important meeting to go on a date instead.

Quinn places these emotional moments, humiliations and embarrassments against the backdrop of Maeve’s mother Jean (Orla Brady) spending time in hospital with “women’s problems”, while across the road, her best friend Ruth (Sophie Jo Wasson) is looking to reconnect with her long-lost father (Jared Harris), against the wishes of her bitter mother (played by the director herself). Although each element of the storyline fizzes with the same mood of teenage angst and shares the same sense of observation, the film struggles to tie these separate threads into a compelling whole, sketching outlines of an emotional landscape but leaving perceptible blank areas on the canvas.

Despite that uncertainty, the young cast give lively, unaffected performances taken, no doubt, from their own recent experiences. As Maeve, newcomer Ailish McCarthy is a real find; beautifully expressing the excitement of discovery through a big pair of blue eyes and later, nimbly finding the faces required to express frustration and disappointment without letting anyone other than the camera know. Her gang of friends (Wasson, Riona Smith and Orla Long) share an irrepressible energy, guiding one another over the various teenage hurdles before falling out, snubbing one another with consummate authenticity. More than boys and bras, its here at the centre of a gaggle of girls that 32A finds its heart.

From the magenta masthead on the Evening Press to the precise shade of industrial green paint on the walls, Quinn recreates late 1970’s Dublin with tremendous facility. Costume, production design and soundtrack are all note-perfect and the film is superbly photographed by PJ Dillon.


Rubens Caldeira Monteiro said...

I've just watched the 32A movie in HBO. It's an amazing movie, showing real questions, and this would be a very nice gift for girls. Hopefully I'll find a copy in portuguese...
Congratulations to Marian Quinn, Ailish McCarthy, and Sophie Jo Wasson, and good luck to them. I also agree that Ailish is a real find.

Rubens Caldeira Monteiro, 34 y.o., geologist and environmental manager

milo said...

Rory Gallagher's song, "I Fall Apart" works well in the poignant dance scene. "Like a cat that's playing with a ball of twine that you call my heart."