Tag Archives: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo

Play Acting

Love Gets a Room

by Rachel Willis

Trying to keep the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto from succumbing to despair, a group of actors performs a lighthearted musical-comedy in director Rodrigo Cortés’s film, Love Gets a Room.

The film is set almost entirely within a theater over the course of a single performance. As the actors perform onstage, things are thrown into chaos backstage when Stefcia (Clara Rugaard) learns she can escape the ghetto with Patryk (Mark Ryder). The problem is her love, Edmund (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), would be left behind.

The performance of the play is based on real events from 1942. Written by Jerzy Jurandot, Love Gets a Room was performed in the Warsaw Ghetto by a troupe of actors. For the film, the actors are given a backstory that shines a light on the harsh conditions for the people imprisoned in the Ghetto.

There are several taut scenes, including a moment when a Nazi soldier arrives in the theater and takes a seat in the audience. Scenes like these best serve the film, perfectly juxtaposing the lighthearted nature of the play with the very real terror in the heart of everyone at the mercy of the Nazi soldiers in their midst.

It’s unfortunate the film never quite captures the right tone when its characters struggle with the possibility of escape. The dialogue often feels unnatural, which sometimes fits with the theater-like tone, but more often weakens the film.

The score doesn’t work for the most dramatic scenes. It serves the film well when the focus remains on the play, but backstage, it heightens the melodrama rather than the drama.

But it’s a devastating conundrum – to leave behind those you love when a chance of survival is presented. It is also distressing to watch a group of people in utter fear of their captors, trying their hardest to survive, when their fates have already been written.

However, Love Gets a Room struggles to maintain the sinister nature of the situation. While it successfully captures the need of the audience to laugh at a light-hearted stage play, the characters backstage never quite come to life. This creates a disconnect, which is unfortunate since the subject matter is so very important.

Song of Myself


by George Wolf

CODA is the type of welcome reminder we get every so often that lets us know a formulaic story isn’t an inherently bad thing. Fill the formula with characters that feel real enough to care about, and even a predictable journey can be a touching ride.

Writer/director Sian Heder delivers an engaging crowd-pleaser with CODA, titled after the acronym for Child Of Deaf Adults. That child is Gloucester, Mass. high school senior Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones from Netflix’s Locke and Key – just terrific), who’s the only hearing person in her household of Mom Jackie (Marlee Matlin), Dad Frank (Tony Kotsur) and brother Leo (Daniel Durant).

The Rossi family business is fishing, but Ruby’s real passion is for singing – even though she’s too shy to let people know it. On a whim, she follows her crush Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) to choir class, where the demanding “Mr. V.” (Eugenio Derbez) sees a true talent buried under nerves. Find your voice, Mr. V. tells Ruby, and you could earn a music scholarship.

Find your voice. Heder comes right out and says it – about a character who literally has the only speaking voice in her family. And in an instant, CODA acknowledges all of the ingredients for another manipulative YA special fest, and then sets about swatting them away through thoughtful writing, smart pacing and wonderful performances all around.

Events are often a tad convenient, but the stakes and the people weighing them always feel authentic. Ruby and her friends talk about sex and drugs. Jackie is a (gasp) proudly sexy and sexual middle-aged woman who also has poignant concerns about raising a hearing child. Frank is a loving family man looking for ways to keep his boat in the water, while Leo fights to prove he’s not helpless, and to push Ruby toward her dream.

And, of course, the title also works as a reference to the end of Ruby’s childhood as she moves to take more control of her own life.

So yes, expect first love, a big moment at the choir concert and a happy ending, but the trip to where we know we’re going is funny and warm thanks to the winning cast and Heder’s earnest command of tone. The spots where she removes all sound to shift the perspective are well-placed and never cloying, adding to the film’s list of sweetly resonant moments.

There aren’t many verses in CODA‘s coming-of-age composition that we haven’t heard before. But these hits benefit from an endlessly heartfelt new arrangement, leaving a setlist that’s familiar, but well worth cueing up again.

The Kids Are Not Alright

Here Are the Young Men

by Christie Robb

Based on Rob Doyle’s 2014 novel of the same name, Eoin Macken’s Here Are the Young Men is a bleak look at the emotional lives of three boys poised between school, with a somewhat sheltered boyhood, and real life, with its associated responsibility.

The boys witness the death of a little girl and their individual reactions send them down different paths. Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Vikings) sinks into depression and nihilism, more or less disappearing from the movie.

Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman, 1917/Game of Thrones) desires the stabilization of a proper job and a romantic relationship. Kearney (an unsettling Finn Cole, Peaky Blinders) is awakened, inspired by the immediacy of death, and gives himself permission to satisfy his dark impulses.

The boys’ days and nights are awash in a staggering amount and variety of drugs, downed with beer or vodka. Much of the movie is shot out of focus or uses staccato editing to reinforce the sense that the boys are more or less skating over the surface of their lives, ignoring the emotional depths beneath.

Despite their purported friendship and shared traumatic experience, there’s no solace for the boys in their relationships with each other. The few adults that occasionally appear are either menacing, distracted, or bearers of tired bromides. The young men are isolated and left to stumble along, making choices that aren’t informed by reason. The choices are a creature’s response to an applied stimulus.

Matthew and Kearney’s inner lives are somewhat illustrated by shots of their television screens, which show a kind of cartoonish representation of their subconscious or inner lives. Sometimes the TV shows what is happening to a character separated from the others by distance. I imagine this is an attempt to compensate for the lack of the novel’s inner monologues. And it’s ok, but is kind of jarring, given the spare emotional tone of the rest of the film, and inconsistently applied.

You might ask where the young women are. Well, there is one, Jen (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Queen’s Gambit), Matthew’s sometime girlfriend. Taylor-Joy is magnetic and draws the eye in every scene. There’s just not much for her to do except to express disappointment and defend her virginity. With another actress, this character would be all but forgettable. In the real world, Jen would hang out with other people.

Ultimately, the film serves as a reminder of similar, but more memorable entries in the genre like A Clockwork Orange or Trainspotting. Here Are the Young Men fails to differentiate this generation’s young men from the generations proceeding them. Just more sludge in the puddle of toxic masculinity.