The shining star of this year’s DIFF opening gala, Marian Quinns TWIG has been touted to be one of the must-see Irish films of the 2024. Following a 17-year hiatus from 2007’s A32, TWIG is Quinns modern retelling of the Greek tragedy of Antigone set right the heart of gangland Dublin. Following the conflict of her kingpin brothers TWIG (Sade Malone) must traverse a street war whilst taking a stance against the men in power. Set in the working-class housing estates and council blocks of Dublin’s inner-city, TWIG presents the city as a lawless state where the gangs rule the streets, and a new age of kings is upon us. 

What stands out for TWIG off the bat is the movie’s ambitious story telling. Formulated into acts, the film follows a straight throughline of the Greek tragedy with great back and forward scenes and performances abound. I must tip my hat off to the world building too with Dublin being put front and center. Shooting in the Liberties, Inchicore, Goldenbridge cemetery and the Poolbeg Smokestacks gives the film a genuine identity which was reminiscent of Love/ Hate at its peak. The supporting cast help with this with the Dublin brogue front and center which adds to the character of the film. 

There are fluctuating levels of quality when it comes to who’s mouth this dialogue is coming out of. Some of the big players in the cast go by with ease, Susan McKeown as the local fortune teller Theresa and Brian F. O Bryne as kingpin antagonist Leon are stand outs for me, and others don’t. I wasn’t a big fan of Ghaliah Conroy’s performance as Twigs sister Issy with other supporting characters either over-acting or playing as if they just read the script and didn’t understand the words. Malone herself suffers from this in places which sadly takes you out of what could be a great performance. Visually the movie has its moments, as mentioned the locations are well thought out, but the quality varies with that same overly dramatized element poking through when not needed. Some scenes would also make you question whether it was made for the big screen or TV.  

What I feel is missing in TWIG overall is that push beyond banality. Its plot has a balancing act going on where it’s trying to work the best it can within the confines of its source material leaving the gritty street aspect of the film in the dust. The real tragedy here isn’t that it’s an unfaithful adaptation of Antigone but that the story is sanitized when faced with reality. The soft approach doesn’t work here especially when you have near daily newspaper headlines with more drama than this plot. Comparing this film to other great works adapted you can see there’s room to improve. Ralph Fiennes Coriolanus (2012) did a great job at being faithful to Bard’s brogue and having it be an accessible genre movie, Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood does a great job balancing Macbeth’s robust storyline with Japanese cultural elements and settings. I’m not saying TWIG needs to emulate these films but the opportunity to experiment and go beyond the source material is there. 

All this to say the film is commendable for what it tries to do. In comparison to most of the Irish gangland fodder coming out TWIG is a breath of fresh air. I just wish its voice was louder and could pack the punch it desperately needs. I don’t think the soft approach here works. If your work is a reaction to violence, then show the world that violence in elaborating your point. TWIG shows there’s chances to innovate here but just doesn’t do it enough. 

Rating: 3/5

  • Directed by: Marian Quinn
  • Written by: Marian Quinn
  • Starring: Sade Malone, Brían F. O’Byrne, and Ghaliah Conroy
  • Budget: €1,800,000 (est.)
  • Released: February 22, 2024 (IE & UK)

Review by Marcus Rochford.