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Snakes and Ladders

Director: Trish McAdam


At long last receiving a release in this country, Trish McAdam’s Snakes and Ladders is a dramatic comedy about two contemporary Dublin women who do battle with the conflicting pressures of friendship, family, love and the struggle for success. Jean (Pom Boyd) and Kate (Gina Moxley) are street performers who support themselves from their outlandish routines. The unsettled Jean has a major attitude problem. While she rejects the older generation as represented by her interfering mother Nora (Rosaleen Linehan), she is also unable to fully embrace the alternative lifestyle of her boyfriend musician, Martin (Sean Hughes), her partner Kate and their gay friend Orla (Cathy White). Impulsively accepting a marriage proposal from Martin, she soon panics at he prospect of the wedding and sets in motion a chaotic series of events which affect all the characters’ lives.
McAdam has described her film as a funny drama and a serious comedy, a dramatic duality which reflects the predicament of her two female leads. The film was conceived with Boyd and Moxley as the dynamic female duo. The pair had worked together in the past, and their naturalistic performances capture that unique love-hate chemistry that really close friends often share. As Jean’s overbearing mother, Rosaleen Linehan is anything but understated and almost steals the show in a wonderfully funny turn as the sprightly, cheerful parent who seems more than a match for the younger generation.
Snakes and Ladders captures a strong sense of Dublin in the nineties as a city with a vibrant music, pub and club scene. Music plays a crucial role, with a fine score composed and performend by Pierce Turner, who plays the lead singer in Martin’s band. (There’s also an amusing cameo appearance by Joe Dolan, singing Make Me an Island and You’re Such a Good Looking Woman to the delight of members of The Dead Husbands Club). But the film is no fulsome celebration of great times. As the title itself implies, the game of life has its ups and down, with failures as well as successes. Dublin is now a city of youth, life and colour, says McAdam, but behind that colour the grey past still lingers. We may have moved on in recent years to new-found confidence, but behind that confidence the old basic everyday emotional problems will always be with us.

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