Esther McCarthy reviews First Man and Rosie
First Man (12A) *****
Like last year’s Dunkirk, First Man focuses on putting the audience front and centre in the experience rather than in a more traditional biopic. It deserves to be seen on the biggest cinema screen you can find.
Set between the years 1961 and 1969, First Man focuses on the efforts of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon for their first time in our history. The effort took years to develop and we see how the reserved, clear-thinking Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) gradually emerges as the top man for the job.
But this comes at enormous personal risk and cost. Armstrong and his wife Janet (Claire Foy) are already dealing with the ongoing grief of losing their young daughter to cancer years earlier.
As the mission looms closer, the family is forced to confront some harsh possibilities and communicate them to their two sons. What if something goes wrong and daddy doesn’t make it home?
Director Damien Chazelle’s film’s great victory is to give us a real sense of the risk and peril that these men face. And it doesn’t shy away from questioning the folly of America taking on the Russians in a Cold-War space race, or the growing unrest at the massive financial costs involved.
Rosie (12A) ****
Cork actress Sarah Greene - a star who has long shown her promise in films like Noble and Dublin Oldschool - is sensational here as the title character.
She brings real heart and flesh to Rosie, a working-class Dublin woman doing her best to raise her four kids along with her husband John Paul (an excellent Moe Dunford). They have a solid and loving relationship - and they’ll need it, as it’s about to be tested to the limit.
When the home they have rented privately is sold by their landlord and they’re unable to find an alternative during their notice period, they turn to the State, and their daily lives become the stuff of nightmares. As John Paul works hard by dad in his job in a busy restaurant kitchen, Rosie does the school runs and spends most of the day with their possessions in the family car, working through a list of hotels looking for a room for her family for the night.
Rosie is sad but it’s so much more - a tale of family love, a story of compassion in crisis, powerful, urgent and relevant.