‘The Sparrow’ inspired by Ennell dog walks

Mullingar director Michael Kinirons to do Q&A at local cinema on Friday

The award winning film drama The Sparrow, written and directed by Mullingar man Michael Kinirons, and produced by his wife Alicia Ní Ghráinne, opens in cinemas this Friday, July 5. Michael will attend Mullingar IMC on the night to answer questions about this hard-hitting movie that deals with guilt, grief and the overbearing burden of emotions on a person locked into a dysfunctional father/son relationship.

Michael Kinirons has won many awards for his productions, which have featured in film festivals around the world. The Sparrow is his directorial debut and is set in a remote fishing village in Cork, although the idea was conceived on the shores of the local lakes.

In an interview with the Westmeath Examiner, Michael said the original idea for the movie came to him as he walked his dog around the shores of Lough Ennell. “I had the idea of two people fighting on a boat,” he said. Michael grew up in Mullingar, played county at underage and club football with Mullingar Shamrocks and St Loman’s, hurling with St Oliver Plunkett’s, and was “a half descent player” with Mullingar Tennis Club.

“I wouldn’t call myself wild, but I got into a fair few scrapes,” he laughs. His formative years were largely spent hanging around Christy’s Gaming Arcade, where he became “very good at pool”, and in the town park with friends.

“Mullingar is very different now than it was in the ’80s,” Michael said. Back then, the focus was on sport and there was not much emphasis on his passion, cinema. Nowadays, there is plenty for young people in the line of music and filmmaking, he said, and he intends to get involved and to help out.

Michael is the youngest of seven children of the late Tom Kinirons, who was Weights and Measures inspector at Mullingar Garda Station until the late 1980s, and Anna, Millmount, Mullingar. Michael’s sisters Kyara and Grace and Grace’s husband John Burke also live in Millmount.

Grace works in Nuts and Grains and John in Top Oil. Their sister Maria recently moved back from the US. Their brothers are Tommy, who works with the Department of Justice in Dublin, John, who is an engineer in England, and Peter, a consultant neurologist in Cork.

Michael and his wife Alicia live near Ballinlough, Clonmellon. Together they run the Tiger Darling Productions company, which produced The Sparrow.

Having attended St Mary’s CBS and St Finian’s College, Mullingar, Michael went on to study at Trinity College, Dublin, first engineering for a year, and then English and philosophy. “I realised engineering was not for me and went from doing 40 hours a week to the more civilised six hours a week in English and philosophy,” he laughed.

It was during his college years that Michael started filming and wrote and directed a short film, Falling Angels, for RTÉ, which won him a place in the National Film and Television School in London.

Michael first met Alicia in the early 2000s when he was working on a TG 4 production, Blood and Ink, and was looking for an Irish speaker to play a teenager. They met again in “film school in London” and have been together since 2012.

“From 2012, I was trying to get a feature film made, but it was difficult after the crash,” Michael said. His big break came when he wrote his first feature film, Strangerland, an Australian mystery drama starring Nicole Kidman. It premièred at the Sundance Film Festival, 2015.

The Sparrow is Michael’s directorial debut. It is a gripping drama about a teenager who lies about his involvement in the accidental death of his brother. Since the death of his mother, 17-year-old Kevin Coyle (played by Ollie West) has become increasingly isolated from his over-bearing father (played by David O’Hara) and favoured older brother Robbie (played by Éanna Hardwicke, who won the hearts of viewers in his role as Detective Joe Ryan in the RTÉ drama, Smother).

Michael’s films feature complex characters and wild teen Kevin Coyle fits the bill. He causes the death of his brother Robbie, but tells no one, except the sparrow he keeps locked in his room. As the consequences of his lie unfold, Kevin must confront the truth and finally turn to his domineering father for what he needs most, forgiveness.

The movie is set in a remote fishing village in west Cork. The scenery is stunning and the panoramic views of the land and seascapes cleverly contrast with the confines within which young Kevin lives. The action is tough with a constant undercurrent of suspense.

Michael is now working on his next movie Anima, a psychological “dark and twisted” thriller, and he is hoping to get finance for it and for his production James Joyce’s Daughter, which also has Westmeath connections.

The Sparrow opens at Mullingar IMC this Friday, July 5, when you can meet and talk with the talented Michael who still has his roots firmly set in his hometown.