Tearful audiences showed their approval for Shine. You are surprised by the tears. Intellectually you know they’re coming. You try to stop, and the tears still come. Sarin spoke with us later about recognizing this human need to feel these emotions. His skillful adaptation of Lillian Beckwith’s book reaches this instinctual need.
The story takes place on the isle of Corrie on the Irish West Coast. Maire O’Donnell played by Danish actress Connie Nielsen brings Tomas (John Bell) home to the island. She wants to adopt him removing him from a bleak, miserable orphanage existence on the mainland. Her husband played by Aiden Quinn has no interest in Tomas. He regards him as a ‘runt.’ The dramatic tension is set.
Their film life is, otherwise, ‘island like.’ With no connections to a past or a future, especially on the mainland, we see their happy, loving, idyllic life. Quinn fishes, Maire tends to hearth and home. The dramatic tensions come when she brings Tomas home who she wants to adopt. Tears will follow.
Vic Sarin uses an artistic union of weapons to make us cry. His amazing cinematography is the start. His pictures reflect the story’s highs and lows. Stunning, coastal vistas, poetic twilights, and inspirational light reflect the life affirming beauty of Maire. In these panoramas, we feel her joy in life, her life lessons for a growing Tomas. The sad, bleak, cynicism of her husband is the dark, unforgiving rain and winds whipping the tiny island.
Sarin’s cinematography unites in harmony with this extraordinary cast. Before the shooting, Sarin explained that he decided to settle with Connie’s Danish accent–maybe it sounded Celtic? Day one of shooting, she showed up with a perfect Irish accent. This actress who speaks 5 languages was prepared. John Bell (Tomas) was a 10-year-old boy picked out of 200 hopefuls. His first film, he appears in almost every scene for an instrumental performance of joy and discovery. Prepared to pitch Aiden Quinn this project, Sarin approached tentatively and received a simple: I’ll do it. Quinn turns in a relentless performance, the perfect counter point to Neilsen’s rose coloured glasses.
This film announced for all festival patrons: A Shine of Rainbows should not be missed, and it heralds the depth in cinematic experiences available. It heightened our anticipation for all the Canadian productions we will see and report on.
Glen Russell is a freelance writer and West Coast Contributing Editor at Northernstars.ca.