Not long after Dublin Oldschool comes another comedy-drama exploring life in the bustling Irish capital. Yet, Dub Daze is no knock-off. This scrappy low-budget charmer – with its sprawling ensemble and multiple narratives – instead feels like a home grown take on the likes of American Graffiti, Dazed and Confused and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Premiering at DIFF last weekend, Dub Daze is split into three hyperlinked stories. One sees Cork medical students Jack (Nigel Brennan) and Sean (Shane Robinson) arrive in Dublin to find a flat for their upcoming college year. In the process, they find themselves hanging out with some affluent Southsiders. Another follows Northside teenagers Baz (Sam Lucas Smith) and Dan (Ethan Dillon) as they search for some kicks on their last day of school. Completing the triptych is songwriter Fi (Leah Moore), a young woman struggling to break through the cut-throat Dublin music scene.
Produced on a low budget – with a cast of young friends and crew members pulling double duty behind the scenes – the film has a fizzling low-fi energy. The fact many of the game actors are mates, improvising funny blackly comic banter, adds verisimilitude – particularly as scenes often centre around coming-of-age activities like cans in the park or college sessions. Meanwhile, backed by a soundtrack featuring some cuts of the capital’s finest rap, writer-director Shane J. Collins shoots in places recognisable to many Dubliners (Fairview Park, O’Connell St, Temple Bar, UCD, Whelans), helping to add texture to proceedings.
Like most movies featuring multiple plot threads, some are more effective than others. The story of the Cork lads in South Dublin is the best, managing to blend pathos with fish out of water comedy very effectively. It’s also the tale that never strays too hard from believability and boasts some great performances from Brennan and Robinson, as well as Killian Filan playing the epitome of a D4 stereotype and Ali Hardiman as someone sympathetic to the Corkonians plight.
The other two are less successful. The story of Fi – centring on the musician being pressured by her bandmates and a pushy label man to relinquish control of her music for a chance to play it – is the plot which perhaps strains credibility the most. Yet, a feisty Moore and some nice songs elevate it. Meanwhile, the tale of Baz and Dan although often very funny and well-played does go from charming last day of school narrative to sub-Young Offenders escapade pretty fast – making some sharp jumps in logic.
Still, one must praise Collins for delivering a true Dublin movie in that it tells tales from across the city. It has a handful of moments that will have twenty-somethings like this reviewer nostalgic for their youth, and will serve as an effective calling card for what appears to be a new generation of Irish talent on and behind the screen.