'One Million Dubliners': Film Review

Underground Films
Attractive doc would work better as a short

Dublin's top-rated tourist attraction gets its own movie.

While it's nowhere near as famous as Paris's Pere Lachaise, Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery, resting place of 1.5 million souls, has become one of the most popular attractions in Dublin for tourists and locals alike. Giving the place the feature-doc treatment in One Million Dubliners, Aoife Kelleher says a bit about everything here, from the dimensions of the burial plots to the operations of the onsite florist shop. While offering many lovely images and an appealing perspective on Dubliners' attitude toward their past, Stateside viewers who lack a healthy obsession with Irish history will tend to agree the material would have made a much better short than a feature.

Most of the film's charm owes to Shane MacThomais, author and the cemetery's resident historian, who spends his days giving entertaining tours of the grounds, telling ghost stories to schoolkids and joking about the damp cold to slow-moving older visitors. He's also the film's most engaging talking head, by a wide margin.

Few graveyards attract the attention of the living without a celebrity resident or two, and Dubliners devotes long scenes to the legacy of folk singer Luke Kelly and revolutionary leader Michael Collins. The latter is Glasnevin's star, inspiring pathological devotion in some: We meet "the mysterious French lady," who grew obsessed and travels from France six or seven times a year to visit his grave, and hear of a young woman who declared she'd never marry because she was so in love with the dead hero.

Copious crane shots capture the beauty of gravestones that were allowed to become decrepit before the cemetery's restoration, and with most scenes shot on grey, drizzly days, the film has an appealing look. But it's also overstretched, with the expected musings on history and the afterlife padded out with mundane details. A sad shock at the end gives the film a somber cast that, even with all the talk of grief and mortality, it avoids up to this point.

Production company: Underground Films

Director: Aoife Kelleher

Screenwriter: James Mitchell

Producer: Rachel Lysaght

Executive producers: Roger Childs, Paul McGowan, James Mitchell, Keith Potter

Directors of photography: Rachel Lysaght, Cathal Watters

Editor: Emer Reynolds

Music: Ray Harman, Hugh Rodgers

No rating, 79 minutes