A look at youth culture in Irish film and television: 2003-2017

In 2016-17, I completed an MA in English, specialising in Irish Writing and Film, at University College Cork. As part of the course, everyone in my class was required to set up and regularly update a blog. The idea of the blog initially filled my classmates and me with dread, as blogging was completely uncharted territory for most of us. For each of us, the blog served two main purposes: to further develop our writing and digital media skills and to explore our chosen research area. As I had a keen interest in the Irish film industry, I decided to dedicate my blog to contemporary Irish film and television, focusing on the representation of youth culture in these texts. When I completed my first blog post in October 2016, I would never have expected that nearly three years later this blog would continue to play a big part in my life. Although I continue to study and write about Irish film and television, over time Scéal Milis has expanded to look at many other topics including history, international film and television, literature and the representation of women in media.


In a look back at my earlier blog posts, I have put together a short list of Irish films and television shows that explore a range of social issues affecting young people in Ireland. This list spans the years 2003 to 2017 and looks at films and television series that portray issues relating to sexuality, alcohol and drug abuse, crime, unemployment, emigration, mental illness, and homelessness.


Handsome Devil (2017) Treasure Entertainment

Dir: John Butler, starring Nicholas Galitzine, Fionn O’ Shea, Andrew Scott, Moe Dunford, Michael McElhatton

An unlikely friendship develops between outsider Ned and rugby player Conor when they are forced to charge a bedroom at their boarding school. A coming-of-age film examining sexuality, friendship and acceptance.



Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope (2016) RTÉ
Created by Stefanie Preissner, starring Seána Kerslake, Nika McGuigan
Aisling and Danielle are twenty-something Cork women living in Dublin whose close-knit friendship begins to unravel as a result of their hard-partying lifestyle. A compelling look at the issues facing young women in modern Ireland.



download (7)
Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope (2016) [Image: rte.ie]

Smalltown (2016) TV3
Created by Gerard Barrett, starring Charlie Kelly, Pat Shortt, Pauline O’Driscoll, Stephen O’Leary
A young emigrant struggles to reconnect with his family when he returns to his rural home after receiving some devastating news.



The Young Offenders (2016) Wildcard Distribution
Dir: Peter Foott, starring Alex Murphy, Chris Walley, Hilary Rose, Ciaran Bermingham, P.J. Gallagher
Acclaimed comedy following best friends Conor and Jock as they attempt to get rich by getting their hands on smuggled cocaine.



A Date for Mad Mary (2016) Element Pictures
Dir: Darren Thornton, starring Seána Kerslake, Tara Lee, Charleigh Bailey, Denise McCormack, Siobhan Shanahan
A troubled young woman returns to her hometown after being released from prison and embarks on a quest to find a date for her best friends wedding. A deeply engaging film looking at friendship, sexuality and the pain of confronting the past.



download (5)
A Date for Mad Mary (2016) [Image: variety.com]

Sing Street (2016) Lionsgate
Dir: John Carney, starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillan, Maria Doyle Kennedy
Set in 1980s Dublin this musical coming-of-age film follows teenager Conor as he attempts to navigate a new school and starts a band to win over an aspiring model.



Brooklyn (2015) Lionsgate
Dir: John Crowley, starring Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson
In 1950s Ireland a young woman leaves her home for New York in search of a new life. Looks at the struggles faced by young emigrants. Nominated for three Academy Awards.



Glassland (2014) Element Pictures
Dir: Gerard Barrett, starring  Jack Reynor, Toni Colette, Will Poulter, Michael Smiley
Taxi driver John struggles to cope when his mother’s alcoholism begins to spiral out of control. Following his acclaimed feature film debut, Pilgrim Hill Barrett’s examines alcohol abuse and family breakdown in urban Ireland.



Patrick’s Day (2014) Underground Films
Dir: Terry McMahon, starring Moe Dunford, Catherine Walker, Kerry Fox
A compelling look at mental illness. On his birthday a schizophrenic young man forms a relationship with a suicidal air hostess.


download (8)
Patrick’s Day (2014) [Image: independent.ie]

Gold (2014) Gloucester Place Films
Dir: Niall Heery, starring Maisie Williams, David Wilmot, Kerry Condon, James Nesbitt
Teenage athlete Abbie life is shaken by the return of her estranged father. Comedy-drama exploring mental illness, family and the pressure to succeed.


download (3)
Gold (2014) [Image: moviefone.com]

Good Vibrations (2012) Revolution Films
Dir: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn, starring Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Killian Scott
Based on the life of the real-life ‘Godfather of Belfast Punk’ Terri Hooley the film follows his attempt to open a record shop in Troubles era Northern Ireland.



What Richard Did (2012) Element Pictures
Dir: Lenny Abrahamson, starring Jack Reynor, Róisín Murphy, Lars Mikkelsen, Sam Keeley
Golden boy Richard begins to see his life unravel after making a devastating mistake. Based on Kevin Power’s novel Bad Day in Blackrock which was inspired by the real-life Annabel’s case.



The Other Side of Sleep (2011) Fastnet Films
Dir: Rebecca Daly, starring Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Sam Keeley
Set in the Irish midlands Daly’s debut feature film follows a troubled young woman struggling to maintain her grip on reality after waking up beside a dead body.



The Other Side of Sleep (2011) [Image: independent.ie]

Parked (2011) Element Pictures
Dir: Darragh Byrne, starring Colm Meaney, Colin Morgan, Milka Ahlroth, Michael McElhatton
After recently returning to Ireland middle-aged Fred is left homeless and forced to live in his car. After befriending a young drug addict Fred begins to rebuild his life. A touching portrayal of unlikely friendship and the issues of homelessness and drug addict in modern Ireland.



download (1)
Parked (2011) [Image: rippleworld.com]

Cherrybomb (2009) Universal Pictures
Dir: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn, starring  Kimberley Nixon, Rupert Grint, Robert Sheehan, James Nesbitt
Best friends Malachy and Luke compete with each other for the affection of new arrival Michelle. Examines drug abuse, sexuality, friendship and other issues relating to youth culture in modern-day Northern Ireland.


Pure Mule (2005) RTÉ
Created by: Eugene O’ Brien, starring Charlene McKenna, Dawn Bradfield, Simone Kirby, Garret Lombard, Tom Murphy, Eileen Walsh, Luke Griffin
Set in Irish midlands during the mid-2000s construction boom each episode follows the journey of one character over the course of a single weekend. Looks at substance abuse, promiscuity, emigration, illness, relationship breakdown and the anxieties and conflicts that can exist in smalltown life. The follow-up series The Last Weekend (2009) returns to the town post-economic collapse.


Pure Mule (2005) [Image: rte.ie]

Breakfast on Pluto (2005) Pathé
Dir: Neil Jordan, starring Cillian Murphy, Ruth Negga, Laurence Kinlan, Liam Neeson, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, Eva Birthistle
Follows the exploits of transgender woman Patrick ‘Kitten’ Braden as she attempts to navigate Troubles era Northern Ireland and London. Dealing with themes relating to identity, abandonment, violence, love and family.



Adam & Paul (2004) Element Pictures
Dir: Lenny Abrahamson, starring Tom Murphy, Mark O’ Halloran
A darkly comic film following two hapless drug addicts over a single day as they wander through Dublin city in a quest to find heroin. Abrahamson’s debut feature film looks at drug addict and marginalized members of society in Celtic Tiger era urban Ireland.



Man About Dog (2004) Redbus Film Distribution
Dir: Paddy Breathnach, starring Allen Leech, Tom Murphy, Ciaran Nolan, Seán McGinley, Pat Shortt, Fionnuala Flanagan
Crime caper following the exploits of three friends from Belfast as they attempt to escape the wrath of a bookie they conned and win big at hound racing.



Dead Bodies (2003) Hibernia Films
Dir: Robert Quinn, starring Andrew Scott, Kelly Reilly, Darren Healy, Seán McGinley
Aimless twenty-something Tommy is left in a tricky situation when his domineering ex-girlfriend is accidentally killed. Black comedy examining relationships, manipulation and deception.



download (2)
Dead Bodies (2003) [Image: famousfix.com]

Cowboys & Angels (2003) Wide Eye Films
Dir: David Gleeson, starring Michael Legge, Allen Leech, Amy Shiels, Frank Kelly
Set in Limerick city during the boom years Gleeson’s film depicts the growing friendship between a socially isolated and insecure young man and a gay fashion student, and shows the difficulty faced by young people who are trying to establish their identity in a modern city. Deals with themes relating to social isolation, sexuality, identity, drug abuse and emigration.



Credit for cover photo to filmireland.net.

Other photos to famousfix.com, filmireland.net, independent.ie, moviefone.com, rippleworld.com, rte.ie, variety.com.

2 thoughts on “A look at youth culture in Irish film and television: 2003-2017

Add yours

  1. Thanks for compiling this list, which looks like an excellent starting point to learn more about Irish films. I’ve seen maybe 5 Irish films in my life…and it looks like’s there’s some great viewing ahead. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much 🙂 If you are looking to watch more Irish films I’d definitely recommend What Richard Did or A Date for Mad Mary to start. Cowboys and Angels is also my personal favourite 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: