Fresh Filmmaking Talent: Directorial Debuts Coming to ADIFF 18 - Esther McCarthy

Our series of special blogs guest-curated by film critic Esther McCarthy continues as Esther takes a look at the fantastic line-up of directorial debuts in ADIFF 18.

A true sign of a strong festival programme is in its diversity, including the work of new and emerging filmmakers. 

Debut filmmakers bring a sense of frisson and anticipation to the big screen, as we wait to see which upcoming talents are ready to make their mark. 

This year’s ADIFF sees an impressive line-up of first-timers, including several Irish filmmakers. 

Top playwright and screenwriter Mark O’Rowe, who previously brought us hit play Howie the Rookie and penned the screenplay for Intermission, makes his directorial debut with the intense and dialogue-driven The Delinquent Season, which bows at ADIFF. 

Filmed on location in Dublin last year, Cillian Murphy is a standout in a strong cast in O’Rowe’s drama, which tells the story of two couples, neighbours and friends, who appear to live in suburban marital bliss. But when one of the couples goes through a rough period, the cracks begin to appear in both their relationships. 

It’s a story of love, lust, pretence, loyalty and betrayal, anchored by performances from Murphy, Eva Birthistle, Andrew Scott and Catherine Walker. 

Other Irish directors bringing their movies to Dublin include David Freyne, whose horror/drama The Cured brings together a cast including Ellen Page and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, and Aoife McArdle’s much-anticipated 

Kissing Candice, filmed under the Irish Film Board’s Catalyst scheme. 

Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner  -  which has achieved the extraordinary feat of an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, and Sinead O’Shea’s documentary based on a shocking real-life case, A Mother Brings Her Son to be Shot, will also screen at ADIFF. 

Internationally, there is much to watch out for too. 

Never Steady, Never Still

Scottish actor Shirley Henderson delivers a terrific and heartbreaking performance in Never Steady, Never Still, Canadian writer/director Kathleen Hepburn’s much-anticipated portrait of grief, endurance, and hope.

“I wanted to show that kind of strength that women have,” Hepburn has said of her debut, and she and her leading star certainly deliver on that premise. 

Centred on a tumultuous period in the lives of a family living in a remote part of British Columbia, Henderson plays Judy, a women crippled, but not broken, by years of living with Parkinson’s Disease, and its assault on her motor and central-nervous system. 

Her health is not her only difficulty; Judy has concerns for her wayward son (a very good Theodore Pellerin) who has challenges of his own. Attention is paid to Judy’s illness in a manner that is intense but never manipulative, informed, surely, by Hepburn’s own mother, who has lived for years with Parkinson’s disease. 

It reminded me of last year’s wonderful Maudie in its sensitively handled portrayal of fragility and the human spirit. 

Tower. A Bright Day

Polish writer/director Jagoda Szelc makes an impressive debut with her whip-smart psychological thriller Tower. A Bright Day, which will screen at ADIFF. 

A complex and mysterious relationship between two very different sisters lies at the heart of this genre-bursting film, which manages to be as emotionally resonant as it is unnerving. 

Szelc displays a flair for building intrigue in the story, which unfolds when an estranged sister returns home on the eve of a family gathering for a First Holy Communion. 


Michael Pearce brings his eagerly anticipated and award-winning first feature, Beast, to Dublin, with Irish actress Jessie Buckley in the lead role. Set within a remote community on the island of Jersey, it centres on a troubled young woman who hopes a mysterious outsider can help her escape the controlling grip of her family. 


In US cinema, the late Anton Yechin’s final performance features in Thoroughbreds, Cory Finley’s debut drama that centres around two very different friends drawn together by an outrageous plan. 

Check out Esther's first blog here in which she admires the wealth of films directed by women coming to ADIFF 18.

Check out our blog on Silent film here.

Don't Miss Them:

Thursday 22nd February

20.00 The Breadwinner   Cineworld 17

Gala featuring Q&A with Nora Twomey

Friday 23rd February

18.15 Beast   Cineworld 9

18.15 Never Steady, Never Still   Light House 1

In attendance: Kathleen Hepburn

Sunday 25th February

20.15 The Cured   Light House 1

In attendance: Sam Keeley and David Freyne

Monday 26th February

20.30 Tower. A Bright Day   Cineworld 9

Wednesday 28th February

20.45 Thoroughbreds   Cineworld 9

Friday 2nd March

20.45 Kissing Candice   Light House 1

In attendance: Aoife McArdle

Saturday 3rd March

18.15 A Mother Brings Her Son to Be Shot   Light House 1

In attendance: Sinéad O’Shea

20.30 The Delinquent Season   Light House 1

Filmmaker in attendance