Ballywalter (2022)

Northern Ireland-set Ballywalter, directed by Prasanna Puwanarajah and written by Stacey Gregg, is a moving little gem that stars Seána Kerslake and Patrick Kielty.

Drive My Taxi

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Many films have been set in cars or taxis – Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car, Jarmusch’s Night on Earth, Panahi’s Taxi Tehran – and more. The intimacy of the confined space seems to act as a confessional for driver and passenger.

In Ballywalter they are two damaged and disconnected people who make an unlikely, unexpected human connection with each other over the course of their rides together. We don’t know anything about them at first but their truths eventually emerge and have to be confronted.

Eileen (Seána Kerslake, (Bad Sisters), stunning, Screen International Star of Tomorrow, watch for her in future) is an unlikeable, desperate, bitter, English university drop-out now back home, driving what she says is her boyfriend’s taxi.

Shane (comedian Patrick Kielty, who has just made an acclaimed debut as host of RTE’s flagship Late Late Show, very good in his first acting role) has retreated to the seaside town of Ballywalter after separating from his wife and daughter. He is banned from driving so every week he books a taxi to take him into post-sectarian Belfast to attend a stand-up comedy class, which he thinks will help him with his pain and get his life together.

You could predict what’s coming but you’d be wrong, it’s not what you might expect, but very touching because you care about Eileen and Shane now. That’s thanks to the superb screenplay by Belfast-born Stacey Gregg (Here Before), which exudes comedy and pathos, and the sympathetic direction by actor Prasanna Puwanarajah (Martin Bashir in The Crown). There’s also some lovely blues guitar in the background.

Ballywalter is a heartfelt little gem and I hope to see more from anyone in this team.

Ballywalter premiered at the Cork and Edinburgh film festivals and is released on 22 September 2023 in the UK.

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