’Antigone’ is shakily re-cast in Dublin’s inner-city


Source: Dublin International Film Festival


Dir/scr: Marian Quinn. Republic of Ireland. 2023. 105 mins

There is no lack of ambition in Twig, as writer/director Marian Quinn attempts to transpose Thebian tragedy to the streets of modern Dublin. Her contemporary version of ’Antigone’ doesn’t always hit the mark, although it retains some of the impact of Sophocles’ tale of internecine conflict, lone wolf defiance and bloodshed. Wildcard has acquired the Irish rights for a film that has its world premiere as the opening night at Dublin.

 A young cast struggles to bring nuance and conviction to the characters

Quinn’s first feature since 32A (2007) is shot by her cinematographer brother Declan and dedicated to her filmmaker brother Paul who died in 2015. The actor Aidan Quinn is also a sibling. Family is at the heart of Twig as the title character, played by Sade Malone, emerges as a rare voice in support of her brothers Paulie (Justin Anene) and Eddie (Kawku Fortune) as they become victims of crime boss Leon (Brian F. O’Byrne) and his schemes to consolidate his kingdom.

There have been frequent attempts to update the themes of Antigone (including a 1940s version by Jean Anouilh setting it amidst the French resistance to Nazi occupation).  The history of Ireland with its conflicts and collateral damage would seem tailor-made for such an enterprise, although Twig confines itself to the inner-city drug warfare so ceaselessly paraded in TV dramas from Love/Hate to Kin.

Presented in five acts plus a prologue and an epilogue, Twig begins each section with a murder of crows swooping from the trees, offering a black omen of impending death. Opening titles describe Dublin as a ”kingdom divided” where blood spills on the streets and ”a river of fear flows through the people”. Random media reports and small scrums of newshounds testify to a seemingly lawless city. What we actually see on screen is a mundane depiction of a drab urban setting with a graffiti-strewn housing estate, cramped market square and a few, militia-like Garda patrolling the streets. The grey, contemporary setting and characters clad in colourful tracksuits and puffa jackets robs the story of some of its grandeur.

This is still very much a kingdom where men cause trouble and women are left to deal with the consequences. Quinn retains some of the flavour of Sophocles with the inclusion of blind seer Teresa (Tiresias in ’Antigone’), played by Susan McKeown who also performs a number of songs on the soundtrack, including Leonard Cohen’s ’Anthem’. 

Orphaned Twig is in love with Leon’s son Eamon (Donnacha Tynan). Leon is also her godfather. The connections and loyalties are deep-rooted but seem to count for little among men seeking power. Betrayal and execution are inevitably a family affair. When Paulie is shot and left for dead by his brother, Leon orders that he is to be left for the rats and scavengers. Anyone aiding him or giving him a proper burial will suffer his wrath. Twig is unwilling to accept that as her brother’s fate.

Some of the flaws in Twig stem from the inexperience of its young cast who struggle to bring nuance and conviction to their characters. There is a lot of sound and fury in some of the performances that never seems to cut very deep. Some of the clunkier dialogue is awkwardly delivered. A notable exception is Naoise Kelly as Mikayla, a young, wise-beyond-her years girl who offers assistance to Twig. 

Matters improve the more the film focuses on Twig and the fate of star-crossed lovers fighting impossible odds. Sade Malone invests the character with a fire and determination that makes her a convincing warrior for common sense and loyalty in a world of chaos. Her performance helps Quinn capture some of the ’Antigone’ message about the folly of war and the bravery of those seek to challenge it. 

Production companies: Blue Ink Films, Janey Pictures

International sales:  Blue Ink Films info@blueinkfilms.com

Producers: Ruth Carter, Tommy Weir

Cinematography: Declan Quinn

Production design: Lauren Kelly

Editing: Tony Cranstoun

Music: Gerry Leonard

Main cast: Sade Malone, Brian F. O’Byrne, Ghaliah Conroy, Donncha Tynan