Choosing Signs

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Irish Arts & Entertainment
Film Review: "Choosing Signs"
August 2013
by Frank Dunphy

Los Angeles cinemagoers will be treated to images of Cork City later this month as the recently completed “Choosing Signs” has its west coast premiere at the AOF Film Festival. This comedy/drama, written and directed by Cork native Owen Dara, premiered in May at Tribeca Cinemas in New York City as part of the Golden Egg Film Festival, in which it won Choosing Signs Premierethe festival’s top award: Best Feature Film. The film was also nominated for a further three awards, including best director Owen Dara and best Actress Jessica Lancaster. Betsy Douds, who was nominated in the category of Best Supporting Actress, also took home a trophy for her role in the film. “It was a bit surreal,” says writer/director Owen Dara. “We were delighted to premiere the film in New York, and then when we won the award for best film, I was speechless.”

This captivating 90-minute feature is set in Cork during the Celtic Tiger Economy and follows the struggles of an American woman (Jessica Lancaster) who insists on making important life decisions based on what she perceives to be signs from the Universe. It is only when she meets Eamon (Owen Dara) that her beliefs become challenged, and as the pair delve into the complex world of each other’s lives, each of their belief systems--his firmly rooted in the physical; hers overtly in the spiritual--are brought into question. What begins as a physical attraction between the budding couple turns into upheavals in each of their lives as they are forced to face the ultimate truth about themselves.

Although their relationship seems impractical and ill-fated at times, mainly because Jennifer (Lancaster) is also in a relationship with Mark (Stiofán Wyley) whom she relies upon to finance the care for her mentally ill brother (Jeremiah Ocañas), the on-screen chemistry between Lancaster and Dara has the viewer rooting for their ultimate union.

“Choosing Signs” is a smartly-written, superbly-acted film that moves seamlessly between the comedic and the dramatic as the characters find themselves in circumstances that range from heart-wrenching confessions to hilarious interactions. Both moving and entertaining, it takes its audience on a journey of love, spirituality, and self-examination, and even if it doesn’t provide definitive answers to the mysteries of the Cosmos, from the perspective of a well-told story, engagingly draws the viewer to a satisfying conclusion.

New York Irish Arts
Film review: “Choosing Signs”
May 29, 2013 by Orla O'Sullivan

“Choosing Signs” premiered at the inaugural Golden Egg festival in New York’s Tribeca Cinemas, where it won Best Feature Film. Set in Cork, it’s a love story between a local and an American woman who has moved to Ireland. It stars Owen Dara and Jessica Lancaster.

“Choosing Signs” is about a woman who lets her life, and the central decision of who to spend it with, be dictated by the flimsiest of “signs” from The Universe. Though the plot is often implausible, the telling of the tale is so sweet and frequently funny that you allow yourself to be taken.Choosing Signs

You fall for the impishly, charming hero, Eamon (Owen Dara)–-speaking for women at least! So you root for him to get the girl, Jennifer (Jessica Lancaster). Jennifer is surrounded by male madness. The socially acceptable version is  Mark (Stiofan Wyley), her live-in partner; the other is her brother, Matty (Jeremiah Ocanas), a patient in the psychiatric hospital where Eamon works.  Both Mark and Matty are obsessed: Mark with wringing the last cent out of immigrants by cramming them into miniature apartments; Matty with mechanical inventions that have no commercial value.

Eamon is light relief from their intensity and comes across as the true representative of Ireland. Mark and Jennifer’s Russian immigrant housekeeper, Svetlana (Betsy Douds) adds to the fun of a very playful film through her dourness.

Eamon engineers his way into Jennifer’s heart with a kind of childlike innocence. He secures his first date with her by phoning up and acting as if she had suggested it. Realizing that she finds Irish (Gaelic) romantic, he recites a “poem” that is really him counting to ten and back—seemingly his full repertoire in the language.

When the audience finally reaches the sexual culmination it has been seeking, the scene is again playful. The screen fades to black and Jennifer’s voiceover “Oh my God, Oh my God!” But it’s not what you think. The lights come back. Eamon is lying back, happy. Jennifer is sitting bolt upright, pressing the quilt to her bare chest, asking herself, “What have I done?!”

What Dara, particularly, has done is very impressive. He wrote, directed, produced and acted in this, his first feature film, as well as composing and singing the music. Dara’s co-producer was Lancaster, who is his partner in real life. The autobiographical similarities end there, the couple says.