It's difficult to describe writer/director Colin Hickey's The Evening Redness in the South, a dialogue-free motion picture of extraordinary beauty and wonder that one can't, and probably shouldn't, easily define.
To call the film "experimental" feels somehow inaccurate.
Calling The Evening Redness in the South a silent film feels incomplete.
There's no question, of course, that both of these terms are technically true. The Evening Redness in the South is both experimental and silent, yet there is a story that unfolds, perhaps better stated as stories, and there are lives with which we become immersed over the course of the film's 70-minute running time that somehow feels just right yet I could have easily watched even more.
Set in Cork County, Ireland, The Evening Redness in the South immerses us in the daily lives and rituals of people we don't necessarily come to know - an older worker (Liam Cotter), a young mother (Fiona Kelly), a young woman (Orla Gleeson), a son (Denis Hilmer), a young man (Shane Corcoran), a builder (Colin Hickey), a worker (Richard O'Connor), a husband (Louis Jacob), and others.
The cinematic experience of The Evening Redness in the South is less, far less, about cohesive narrative storytelling and much more about the life journey and the ways in which it unfolds in our lives and in the world around us. We see the mundane and we see the profound and we glimpse the truth that sometimes, quite often really, they are one and the same. Hickey's lensing for the film is simply exceptional, a truth evidenced by the film's several fest awards for lensing alone. While the film may be free of dialogue, there's simply no denying that Hickey is telling stories here along with universal truths and intimate revelations.
There's nary a single a moment that The Evening Redness in the South isn't a complete and utter joy to watch. If you've ever watched truly great silent films, you're undoubtedly aware that even the most silent film can communicate the spectrum of life. Indeed, that's much of what happens here as Hickey's images embrace both individuals and interconnectedness. There are times where it seems true that dialogue is occurring - we simply aren't hearing it. We're left to discern these character's truths through their stillnesses and through their non-verbal communication and through Hickey's placement of image and music and the unfolding actions.
It's fascinating to watch, less challenging in a cerebral way and more stimulating of one's entire array of senses.
As beautiful as is Cork County, these characters are just as beautiful as we engage with them in their settings whether that be idyllic countrysides or peaceful lakes or productive farms or seemingly familial moments that we may not completely understand yet we trust.
Every person who appears here is memorable, not necessarily because of their words or deeds but because of their presence and because of how they manage to relate to each other. Even youngsters like Clara Rose Hickey and Thomas Hickey are profoundly moving here.
It's evidence of the film's remarkable presence that even in a world impacted by a pandemic, The Evening Redness in the South continues to find life on the indie festival circuit with screenings over the past year at such fests as Cork International Film Festival, Berlin Revolution Film Festival, Paris Play International Film Festival, and Amsterdam Lift-Off Film Festival among others. Next month, the film will screen at both the Richard Harris Film Festival and will make its U.S. debut at the Chicago Irish Film Festival.
My only regret, I suppose, with The Evening Redness in the South is that I sat here in my home in front of an admittedly fancy monitor watching the film when such wondrous imagery cries out to be seen on a bigger screener where surrender and immersion is even more complete. Alas, that is not to be yet rest assured that this unique, inspired film deserves to be seen and won't soon be forgotten.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic