Ireland made history on Tuesday by landing its first Oscar nomination in the international film category.
But the success of The Quiet Girl, the acclaimed Irish-language drama from writer-director Colm Bairéad that had become something of a dark awards season horse over the last couple of months, wasn’t the only reason for cheer from the Emerald Isle, which is celebrating its greatest ever haul of Academy Award nominations.
As expected, Martin McDonagh’s Irish period tragicomedy The Banshees of Inisherin led the charge. The film’s nine nominations — an Irish record that beats the seven each earned by last year’s Belfast and 1993’s In the Name of the Father — included its domination of the performance categories thanks to best supporting actor nods for both Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan, best supporting actress for Kerry Condon and, as had been widely presumed, a best actor nomination for Colin Farrell. The film, which bowed in Venice and had been part of the awards conversation since, is also in the running for best picture and best director.
But then, going up against Farrell is a nominee who was far less of a sure bet, his fellow countryman Paul Mescal, shortlisted for his standout turn in Charlotte Wells debut Aftersun. The two were born 20 kilometers apart (Mescal in Maynooth, and Farrell in the Dublin suburb of Castleknock).
Mescal’s inclusion is set to be one of the biggest — and welcome — surprises of the 2023 nominations, not least because it came for the actor’s first leading role after his 2020 breakout work in Normal People, and also for probably the lowest-budget film in the entire Oscars lineup (and a film that flew entirely under the radar before it was unveiled as premiering in Cannes). Many awards watchers had also suggested he was going up against none other than Tom Cruise and Top Gun: Maverick for the fifth best actor slot.
And finally, further down the list, Northern Irish drama An Irish Goodbye, written and directed by Tom Berkeley and Ross White, is nominated in the best live-action short category.
In total, Ireland can celebrate 12 nominations. But there’s another Irish name likely to be on the lips of a number of the nominees come Oscars night. In fact, she’s already been given a shout-out in Farrell’s Golden Globes acceptance speech: his four-legged co-star Jenny the donkey.