Taking the elusiveness of history as their premise, Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor (best known for dramatic features Helen, 2008 and Mister John, 2013) have crafted a rich delectation around the “MacGuffin” of a planned biopic of legendary Irish pioneer, Ambrosio O’Higgins. One thread of the film narrates O’Higgins’ story – but not his sensational colonial successes in Chile, more his provenance in Ireland – and how his life metamorphosed from the backwaters of County Sligo all the way to the New World.
Alongside this riff on the O’Higgins legend is a story that reverses his Old-New World trajectory involving Lawlor’s own mother, Helen. In one of the film’s most moving strands, footage of Helen plays as she recites a story to camera. The power of this effect – made potent by the revelation that Helen is now deceased – leads our narrator to muse on the immortality of the photographed image versus the poignant transience of its subject. A moment where Helen is unaware of being filmed brings to mind Kenneth Grahame’s sage observation, “the last thing the skilled actor shall capture – the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of observation”.
It’s Molloy and Lawlor’s receptiveness to the intricacies of their concept that makes Further Beyond such a rewarding experience. Their many locational detours include New York, Valaparaíso, Cádiz and Ballyheigue. All are sites of significance to either O’Higgins or Helen, but more significantly, they’re all “gateway” cities with panoptic views – offering a canvas of possibility to dreamer’s eyes. And – to conclude on another Grahame quote – these sites/sights act as symbol for the spirit of people who are “wayfarers all”, continually moving and transforming, further and beyond.
A work of intelligence and emotion, Further Beyond marks Molloy and Lawlor out as major players in British-Irish cinema.
DIRECTORS: Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor
WRITERS: Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor
SYNOPSIS: A production team narrate the planning of a biopic about famed Irish explorer and future Governor of Chile, Ambrosio O’Higgins.