Interview: Scannain talks Patrick’s Day with Catherine Walker

Nearly twenty four hours after watching Terry Mc Mahon’s superb Patrick’s Day I am walking through the city of Dublin when my phone goes off and I am talking to Catherine Walker one of the stars of the film. I am on a busy road so I wander down one of many of Dublin’s quiet lanes, the same streets that Patrick wanders in the film. It is quiet and quite intimate in this lane with the sky just starting to darken which fits well with this most intimate of films. I start by asking Catherine how she came to be playing Karen the troubled flight attendant who connects with Patrick in the film.

“Well I am a close friend of Terry’s and he gave me the script to read” she says “I wasn’t reading it for a part more as a favour for a friend. But the more I read the more I identified with the character of Karen. She is an interesting character, strong but with cripplingly low self-esteem. The idea that she could become intimate with a serious troubled young man and really connect fascinated me.”

She hit the nail on the head with the word strong. Over countless films we see women (and men too) who are struggling with any kind of suicidal tendencies or mental health issues portrayed as weak and weak willed. Is the fact that she is strong, educated and has a job a huge part of what works in the film, namely that mental health issues can effect anyone?

“God yes” she agrees immediately. “That is exactly it. There are so many normal people who are dragged down every day by being in jobs they hate, in relationships they are struggling to hold together whilst they are barely holding themselves together.”

Does it come down to shame when it comes to mental health?

“It is about shame with everything in this country!” she laughs, warming to the topic. “At the beginning of the film Karen is in a bad way. There is a plan in place that I am in no doubt would have been played out in full had she not met Patrick. Life wears you down. The amount of shit people go though in their lives, they are struggling to make ends meet at the moment and it is taking its toll. Some people find it difficult to articulate this and it is then they are in real trouble.”

One of the main reasons Patrick’s Day works is the fact that there is a real connection at the heart of it. I suggest to Catherine that the success of this comes from the fact that the mental issues in the film are woven through the narrative: we don’t feel that the scriptwriter is lecturing us, the characters feel authentic.

“You have hit the nail on the head!” she says to my delight. “That comes down to the genius of Terry and Michael Lavelle (cinematographer). They knew the right words and the right look for the film and they had tremendous empathy. I was away filming in the UK for some of the early screenings last year and I finally saw the film with an audience in Cork. Looking at the film somewhat objectively as I had had a break from it I thought it was a brilliant. And so did the audience. There is a reason why it has won so many audience awards.”

Ah yes the audience. The Irish people have a somewhat chequered history with seeing their own films. Does she think it will find an audience in Ireland? “Oh I really hope so” she says and sounds like she really means it. “I genuinely believe that if audiences give it a chance they will be moved and genuinely affected by it.”

I cannot argue with that. A day after I have watched it I am still thinking about it. This is an excellent film and a great start to 2015 for Irish film. You will be hearing more of the excellent Catherine Walker as well.

Patrick’s Day is out in cinemas on February 6th. You can read Niall’s 5 star review here.