Aidan Quinn, Connie Nielsen, John Bell-Tomas
Vic Sarin, Catherine Spear, Dennis Foon
based upon novel by Lillian Beckwith
Maire O'Donnell (Connie Nielsen) is a vibrant and loving woman who adopts an eight-year-old boy, Tomas (John Bell), a boy who proves to be a bit of a disappointment to Maire's stern, reluctant to adopt husband, Alec (Aidan Quinn). Tomas is a rather timid young man with hesitant speech and an inward personality that keeps he and Alec at a distance from one another. Nevertheless, Tomas and Maire bond wondrously and he grows to love his home on Corrie Island, off the coast of Ireland. When a tragedy strikes, Tomas must bring forth the lessons about inner strength that he has learned from Maire if he is to keep the home he has grown to love and, indeed, he must find a way to connect with a very reluctant father.
Based upon a novel by Lillian Beckwith, A Shine of Rainbows is a gentle, enthusiastic and feel-good flick that brings to mind the family friendly Disney films of the 1960's with its ever so light conflicts, affirming messages and impossibly bright performances. Winner of the Audience Award for Best Feature during the 2009 Heartland Film Festival and recipient of numerous other festival honors, A Shine of Rainbows has found its way into a limited nationwide release courtesy of the folks at Freestyle Releasing.
A Shine of Rainbows is worth seeing if only for the performance of Connie Nielsen, serving up the kind of warm, maternal and sensitive performance for which she's most certainly never been asked. She's a revelation here, her smooth Irish lilt and gentle presence proving to inviting even when she's weaving her way through every cliche' imaginable.
Indeed, A Shine of Rainbows does contain virtually every cliche' imaginable from adolescent conflict to a conflicted couple to a health crisis and, yes, there's even a wounded animal here who serves to bond the guarded father and son.
Cliche' after cliche' after cliche'. Yet, oh my, if you can surrender yourself to the warm and positive spirit of the film it's an experience you will most assuredly enjoy.
There are moments in A Shine of Rainbows that feel emotionally manipulative, especially in the film's final third. Yet, by the time the film it's weaving its way towards its conclusion it's hard to not feel satisfied anyway. A Shine of Rainbows may not be a perfect film (and it's not), but it is a perfectly enjoyable cinematic experience.
Filmed in County Donegal, Ireland, the film's camera work is mesmerizing as captured by Sarin himself. Sarin nicely blends the area's wondrous beauty while also dropping in, at times, a heaviness that nicely companions the film once Tomas's world is at risk. Sarin's camera work is matched by the marvelous production design of Tom McCullagh and original music by Keith Power.
While A Shine of Rainbows will undoubtedly play well with those who have an appreciation for positive and relentlessly inspiring cinema, it undoubtedly will also irritate those for whom such perpetual happiness is ingratiating and for whom the mere thought of puppy dogs and rainbows and baby seals is enough to make you vomit in your mouth just a little.
Along with Nielsen's winning performance, both Aidan Quinn, in arguably the film's most complex role, and young John Bell give satisfying and memorable performances.
For those who lament the absence of positive, family friendly and life affirming films in theatres today, this is your chance to support Freestyle Releasing's decision to put A Shine of Rainbows in theatres.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic