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If you ever find yourself in trouble it’s probably best to make your way to a remote Irish village, where the quirky residents are bound to be all too happy to help you in your plight. This narrative staple of Irish films reappears yet again in The Runway, director/screenwriter Ian Power’s mild but likeable debut feature starring Demian Bichir. Opening in Arizona for a limited release, the film could well score on VOD and cable thanks to its Oscar nominated (A Better Life) leading man’s newly high profile.
Apparently inspired by a true-life incident, the film, which reveals no small influence by E.T., concerns a Columbian pilot, Ernesto, whose plane crash lands in the small village of Drumalee in County Cork. Speaking not a word of English, Ernesto finds a chief ally in nine-year-old Paco (Jamie Kierans), the only resident who speaks any Spanish. It seems that the lad has learned the language in the hope of someday reconnecting with his long-absent father, who according to his mother Grace (Kerry Condon) is a Spaniard.
Providing exactly the sort of mistranslation designed to encourage the townspeople to come to aid of the otherwise shady pilot, Paco quickly begins looking at his new friend as a father figure, with Ernesto helping things along by taking a romantic interest in his comely mother. Meanwhile, prodded by a no-nonsense local engineer (an entertaining James Cosmo), the villagers set about trying to help Ernesto repair his plane and construct a make-shift runway from which he can take flight.
The formulaic but amusing goings-on, which include the late arrival of a fellow Columbian on Ernesto’s tail (played by Bichir’s brother Bruno), are thankfully elevated by the central performances. Young Kierans is effortlessly natural in his film debut; Kondon is charming as the wary but lonely single mom, and Bichir uses his smoldering good looks and natural charisma to excellent effect. The talented Mexican actor, so effective as the villainous crime boss in Weeds, displays the sort of soulful presence that renders the improbable plotline reasonably believable.
Opens July 20 (Tribeca Film)
Production: Fastnet Films, Ponderosa Pictures
Cast: Demian Bichir, Kerry Condon, Jamie Kierans, James Cosmo, Donncha Crowley, Pat Laffan
Director/screenwriter: Ian Power
Producer: Macdara Kelleher
Executive producers: James Atherton, Jan Pace, Marina Fuentes, Arredonda
Director of photography: P.J. Dillon
Editor: Amine Jaber
Production designer: Ray Ball
Costume designer: Uli Simon
Music: Gast Waltzing
Not rated, 93 min.
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