out of Five
Running time: 88
Impressively directed, naturalistic drama that succeeds as social commentary but fails to engage on a narrative level.
What’s it all about?
Winnie Maughan (Winnie Maughan) is a sad-faced 10 year old girl who lives with her mother (Rosie Maughan) and around nine siblings in a row of caravans alongside a Dublin road. There isn’t much of a plot – Winnie gets suspended from school for fighting, sniffs petrol with a younger boy, gets caught shop-lifting and hangs out with her slightly older sister (Rose Maughan).
Meanwhile, Rosie has her own problems. Government jobsworths trick her into moving the family off council property (to somewhere without a water supply), while a steady stream of social workers and activists try and help her out with the kids’ health and schooling.
Photographer Perry Ogden got the idea for Pavee Lackeen while researching his 1999 book Pony Kids. The film is shot documentary-style on mini DV, using non-professional actors, most of whom are from the Traveller community. As such, Ogden gets impressive performances from his cast, particularly from Winnie, whose sad-eyed little face will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.
While it’s interesting to follow Winnie around as she goes about her life, the film ultimately suffers from the lack of an engaging story. There are no real consequences from either her suspension or her shop-lifting.
In short, this is worth seeing for Winnie Maughan’s performance and the film is likely to leave you with a sharp sense of social injustice. Ken Loach would be proud.