JDIFF Review – Eat Your Children

Two former emigrants return to Ireland at the height of the economic crisis. Perplexed as to why the Irish people don’t protest the austerity measures as much as their European cousins, Treasa O’Brien and Mary Jane O’Leary travel the length and breadth of the country to discover if this reluctance is fear or simply apathy.

Living in Ireland, it is nigh on impossible to have a conversation about life in this country without the topic turning to one of the many austerity measures that we are now living with as a nation; water charges, property tax, universal tax increases… The list goes on, and feels exhausting. Yet there seems to be a feeling of finality about the whole process, where the Irish people are happy to complain over a pint but not get out on the streets and try to affect change. This is what Treasa O’Brien and Mary Jane O’Leary set out to investigate.

O’Brien and O’Leary travel the length and breadth of the country, talking to those who have famously protested, those who live beside protest hotspots but refuse to get involved and those who are simply happy to give up and emigrate. What emerges is a story of young people who are on the way out of the country, and older people who are angry but feel that protesting wouldn’t change anything. It’s a rather shocking state of affairs, when laid out so clearly, but the trouble is that while the filmmakers talk to fascinating people across the country – scholars, thinkers, those who try to affect change and those who are baffled by Ireland’s inaction – there are plenty of problems put forward, but very few solutions.

Perhaps there is no solution to be had, but even this as a closing statement could have wrapped the film up well. Instead, the film talks about all the reasons the Irish people should be out on the streets on a daily basis, but does nothing to encourage us to get out there and face what feel like insurmountable odds.

On the positive side, however, the film is well shot, and tries to be as inclusive as possible in its travels around the country. The filmmakers use chalk drawings on walls and pavements to illustrate their points, and break the film into chapters, and there are some engaging candid moments of the two on the road, that make the film feel a little more personal.

In all, Eat Your Children is an interesting idea for a film, especially for those of us living in Ireland and perhaps struck with the apathy of so many – if I’m OK financially, then what does it matter? – and it is rewarding to see the filmmakers look back over Irish history as a possible cause for this, but far from offering potential solutions, Eat Your Children is a film that seems to deal only in problems.

Rating: 3/5

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