YOU’RE UGLY TOO (Ireland/15A/78mins)
Directed by Mark Noonan. Starring Aiden Gillen, Lauren Kinsella, Jesse Morris, Erilka Sainte, George Pistereanu.
THE PLOT: After her mother dies, Stacey (Lauren Kinsella) is sent to live with her uncle Will (Aidan Gillen). Stacey is full of anger at her life, and Will has been released from prison on compassionate leave to care for her, so the two must find a way to make this new relationship work.
THE VERDICT: YOU’RE UGLY TOO is a low-key Irish drama about the sacrifices we make for the ones we love, and finding a way to make a strange new situation work. Aidan Gillen is on strong form as former convict Will. It is clear that the character is trying his best to make the situation work, but his old habits are hard to break, and come back with a vengeance. Gillen makes Will sensitive and caring, but with a darker side that only shows now and again. Lauren Kinsella plays Stacey as a typical Dublin ruffian who, at 11 years old, would buy and sell you if you gave her half a chance. The relationship between Will and Stacey is a joy, however, as he is constantly trying to impress her, and she is too cool to be on what she considers to be an old man’s level. The rest of the cast is made up of Erika Sainte and George Pistereanu.
Mark Noonan’s screenplay focuses on a new family unit trying to do good in the face of troubles, health issues and an inability to change. The dialogue is clever enough, and exposition comes when it is needed, but not in waves of clunky dialogue. In reality, not a whole lot happens in You’re Ugly Too, but it is a careful examination of family and finding a way to make a painful situation work.
As director, Noonan allows the action to unfold in front of the camera, without ever making the situations feel forced or staged. As well as this, the performances are strong, and the relationships between the characters feel real and natural. There are some narrative structures thrown in to make the film feel worthwhile, but they work for the most part, and the film is fairly well paced; enough to keep the audience engaged.
In all, YOU’RE UGLY TOO contains strong performances from Gillen and Kinsella, is carefully written and well directed. An engaging look at modern families in Ireland and a powerful debut from Mark Noonan.
Review by Brogen Hayes

You're Ugly Too
Review by Brogen Hayes
4.0A powerful debut
  • filmbuff2011

    Mark Noonan’s debut feature You’re Ugly Too immediately shows the makings of a name to watch, along with the likes of Brendan Muldowney and Ciaran Foy. The plot focuses on two unlikely individuals. Will (Aidan Gillen) is released from prison for an initially unspecified crime that he’s unwilling to talk to anyone else about. Especially the little girl he’s now charged with looking after – Stacey (Lauren Kinsella). Stacey is wise beyond her 11 years and is more clued in to the world around her than the unfamiliar world that Will has re-joined. They live together in a caravan, playing a father / daughter role though they’re not as close as that. A friendly neighbour, Emilie (Erika Sainte), takes an interest in both of them, schooling Stacey and charming Will. But Will has other distractions – like trying to find work and staying out of trouble, otherwise he might have to go back to prison. Somewhere amid all the banter and cheeky rivalry between them, Will and Stacey will found some middle ground between the past and the present… You’re Ugly Too is a deceptively simple film that packs a major punch. It’s rooted in character-driven drama centred on two wonderful performances from Gillen (on a roll recently) and young Kinsella, whose more than a match for him. Their scenes together have a real spark to them and give the film its heart. Noonan’s direction is straightforward and unshowy – no elaborate camera moves or attempts to over-impress, like a lot of first-time directors. He just points the camera towards his talented actors and lets them roll with it, sketching out their characters in credible three dimensions. The reasons for Will’s reluctance to talk about his reason for being in prison ties the story threads together and make him a flawed hero, in a sense. It’s a short film at 81 minutes, but not one of those minutes is wasted. It’s says far more about the human condition and adult/child relationships than summer blockbusters twice that length. This has been a great year for Irish films and the charming You’re Ugly Too is proof that Irish films can connect with their home audience. Highly recommended. ****

  • emerb

    Irish writer-director Mark Noonan’s “You’re Ugly Too” is a bittersweet drama following the trials and tribulations of an unlikely but necessary familial relationship. It is a modest but engaging film which gives us a touching portrayal of the impact on two people from the same family who are thrown together and faced with the challenge of getting to know each other and learning to let go. Shot in the Irish Midlands, it features touching performances from Aidan Gillen and Lauren Kinsella as an uncle and his orphaned niece who begin as strangers but gradually develop a bond. We follow the ups and downs of this relationship as the pair rebound off each other in the confinement of a tiny caravan.

    Six weeks after her mother passed away from causes that are never fully explained, and with her father having died years previously, 11-year-old Stacey (Lauren Kinsella) will have to face spending her teenage years in foster homes
    unless a solution can be found. Her uncle Will (Aiden Gillen) is given compassionate release six months before the end of his prison sentence to care for her. They travel across miles of flat countryside to stay at Stacey’s mother’s caravan in a trailer park somewhere in the Irish countryside. The pair must learn to trust each other and form a family. Slowly a relationship develops between them, with Will trying hard to be a proper surrogate father and Stacey rebelling in a typical pre-adolescent way. As their rapport develops Stacey evens opens up a little asking Will about why he is in prison but Will remains silent on the issue. Other complications emerge such as Stacey developing narcolepsy and the medication results in her being kept out of school. They strike up an unlikely friendship with a couple next door, a troubled Belgian-Romanian couple, a warm lady Emilie (Erika Sainte) who is trying to figure out her own relationship with her husband Tibor (George Pistereanu) and they have a son a little younger than Stacey.

    The relationship between uncle and niece is central to the film. Will struggles in the weeks after his release and has trouble coping with his new life. He finds work hard to come by and even gets very close to missing his daily calls to his probation officer on several occasions. Will has to prove he can provide a stable
    environment for Stacey but has limited time to do so before a welfare interview
    which will decide whether he must return to prison. However, with his job options limited, the situation begins to deteriorate and he starts drinking and even popping pills.

    The whole cast does a good job and the film’s strength lies in the dynamic of their relationship. Both characters are endearing, authentic and credible. Aidan Gillen gives a splendid performance of the rough-edged, flawed Will. He perfectly captures this lonely reclusive character, emotionally unaware and detached from
    those around him and living in fear under the shadow of the law. He does his best to be a parent to a difficult girl but there is no easy solution to be found. Young newcomer Lauren Kinsella reveals herself to be extremely talented as the wild but worldly wise girl who swears and spits so much that it even manages to disturb her hardened Uncle who feels he must try to curb these bad habits. It’s touching to watch a cautious bond and mutual affection develop between them.

    “You’re Too Ugly” is shot simply without elaborate imagery. There are no extravagant set pieces, no frills, no gimmicks and the plot is entirely character driven, but yet I found this quite refreshing. Despite the lack of extravagance,
    the film is polished and poignant. There are a subtle range of themes running
    throughout the film – the importance of trust and truth in relationships, hope and despair, love and misunderstanding. We watch as the flawed characters attempt to rebuild their difficult lives and their troubled relationships. Admittedly, many of the subjects are dark, deep and strongly emotional but there is a light touch of humour which lifts the movie in all the right places. The movie is realistic and while there is no tidy end solution, there is hope for the characters too and the feeling that the relationship is destined to endure. “You’re Ugly Too” has received high praise and it would be good to see this Irish film score well at the box office. This film will leave a lasting impression and you’re sure to leave both smiling
    and satisfied.