Snakes and Ladders (1996)

D: Trish McAdam
S: Gina Moxley, Pom Boyd, Rosaleen Linehan, Sean Hughes

Enjoyable low-budget Irish feature which plays much like an episode of a sitcom or a soap with additional sex and bad language, but is, at least, mercifully free of overt political commentary and liberates itself from the straight jacket of recent Irish cinema.

Independent young busker Pom Boyd faces a series of life questions when her musician boyfriend Sean Hughes proposes to her. Initially she accepts. Then she jilts him in favour of an obnoxious yuppie (Paudge Behan). Finally she is forced to wonder just what her life is going to be about in the future and examine the choices open to her. But in the meantime her relationships begin to deteriorate, including with longtime friend and flatmate Gina Moxley. Her real motivation throughout is to maintain her independence from everyone, including her well meaning but overbearing mother Rosaleen Linehan.

The performances are a little over-ripe at times (though Rosaleen Linehan and Joe Dolan (the latter in a cameo) enjoy themselves immensely), but they are effective. The film is framed by the new urban imagery which has gradually found its way into Irish features. This is useful in setting out the parameters within which the film operates, and its sometimes irritatingly feckless characters fit beautifully into a recognisable Dublin night life.

Though the script has convoluted credits, it is solidly written and works well for as long as the film runs. It has little enough resonance at the end of the day as a stand-alone work of cinema, and the film really belongs on television. But it has the virtue of being fun to watch and sincere about making its feminist statements in an unpretentious manner. The result is a typical festival film which has been touring that circuit for nearly two years (after premiering in Cork in 1996) and only now goes on general release in its home country.

Review by Harvey O'Brien copyright 1998.