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A genial combination of coming-of-age and road movie, Simon Fitzmaurice’s debut feature boasts an appealing performance by Evanna Lynch (she played Luna Lovegood in several Harry Potter films) and gorgeous Irish scenery. While its narrative elements threaten at times to descend from whimsical into hopelessly twee, My Name Is Emily ultimately finds a proper, if not particularly compelling, balance.
Lynch plays the title role, a 16-year-old whose mother died young and whose father (Michael Smiley) — after becoming a best-selling author with his self-help book advising its readers to have more sex — is confined to a mental institution. Living with a foster family, including a mother whose relentless sunniness drives her to distraction, Emily is the sort of quirky, self-possessed teen whose classmates inevitably describe her as “weird.”
Release date: Feb 17, 2017
When her dad’s annual birthday card fails to arrive, Emily becomes deeply concerned. She enlists Arden (George Webster), a smitten classmate, to accompany her on a road trip to see her father and possibly break him out of the loony bin. Predictable complications ensue, with the two teens becoming emotionally involved along the way. And when they do finally arrive at their destination, what they find proves surprising.
Overly stuffed with pseudo-poetic narration and flashbacks, the film also suffers from a plethora of painful aphorisms on the order of “If you hide from death, you hide from life.” But it nonetheless exerts an undeniable charm, thanks to Lynch’s winsome portrayal and Smiley’s entertainingly manic performance as the eccentric father. And much of the imagery, including several sequences featuring a watery motif, proves visually enchanting.
The pic is all the more an achievement because of its backstory, not that most viewers will be aware of it. The writer-director was diagnosed with ALS nearly a decade ago, and is now completely paralyzed. He wrote the screenplay using iris recognition software to track the movement of his eyes, and communicated with his cast and crew via the same method. The result represents an extraordinary feat of determination that infuses My Name Is Emily with an even more poignant resonance.
Production companies: Newgrange Pictures, Kennedy Films, Garagefilm International Paradox
Distributor: Monument Releasing
Cast: Evanna Lynch, George Webster, Michael Smiley, Barry McGovern, Martin McCann
Director-screenwriter: Simon Fitzmaurice
Producers: Lesley McKimm, Kathryn Kennedy
Executive producer: Jackie Larkin
Support director: Liz Gill
Director of photography: Seamus Deasy
Production designer: John Hand
Editor: Emer Reynolds
Costume designer: Judith Williams
Composer: Stephen McKeon
Casting: Amy Rowan
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