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Festivals Film Reviews Raindance Film Festival 2024

Review: Kathleen Is Here. A reminder of lost children

  • Release year: 2024
  • Director: Eva Birthistle.
  • Producer: Claire McCaughley.
  • Screenplay by: Eva Birthistle.
  • Cinematography by: Burschi Wojnar.
  • Music by: Sam Thompson and Amelia Warner.

Synopsis: Kathleen was a child raise in the system. Now she’s of age, her mother has died, and she has inherited her house, where she’ll have to build a life.

Shotgun Commentary: your average stalker thriller, but posing the great question: when do the “children of the system” go when they are of age?

Still from Kathleen is Here (Eva Birthistle, 2024).

Review

Kathleen is Here is like a long Criminal Minds (2005-present) episode. You are given the point of view of the perpetrator so you can understand them. You can see how they are also a victim in the events that transpire. Despite the commonality of the plot’s core -a stalker story-, the feature raises an important question (also previously touched upon but not developed fully by Criminal Minds): What happens to the children that are brought up in the system when they come of age?

This question is the emotional core of the story. Birthistle talked about how it motivated her to do this project during the presentation for the film’s world premiere at Raindance. Bringing up this kind of subjects is what makes cinema useful as a cultural source. It makes you think about topics that wouldn’t otherwise call your attention, even if they stood in front of you.

Judgement > help

Kathleen (Hazel Doupe) is a young woman who has inherited her mother’s house after her passing. Now that she is of age and the system that took care of her no longer takes that responsibility. It is up to her to figure how to build herself a life. The most shocking thing about this process is how often it is mentioned that she had some serious attachment issues in the past, and yet how little her mental health is addressed.

Still from Kathleen is Here (Eva Birthistle, 2024). Courtesy of: Raindance Film Festival.

Yes, Kathleen is frequently evaluated by her career, but there is no mention of therapy or medication whatsoever. Granted, medication isn’t always needed. But therapy is, especially in cases like Kathleen, and what you see is an awful lot of analysis with absolutely no teaching of coping techniques or mental health exercises or routines. What good is a big tower of forms about Kathleen, when none of them are directed to help her?

The film raises an alarm on this subject and how, much like it happens to prisoners, the rehabilitation process is incredibly lacking in favour or the easier contain-and-release method. Kathleen is a child with a troubled past that has not received the necessary care or education. This much is clear from her zero impulse control and hardcore stalking tendencies. Therefore, she is a walking cry for help more than she is a criminal.

Excellent style until…

The storytelling is melancholically gorgeous. The dominance of blue and gray hues on screen are as characteristic of Ireland as they are telling of Kathleen’s psychological state. The shots frame carefully what’s in front of the camera, so the spectator can easily follow the narrative and notice the most important details of every moment. Everything is curated with the utmost care, which begs the question, why a hand-held camera?

Some shots are understandably shot with camera in hand, for example some chaotic running moments. However, there are other, more intense, static and powerful moments that make no sense with this technique. One of them takes place after Kathleen prepares a mani-pedi. The camera moves towards her from the end of the corridor. With this technique, it looks like there is another person in the house with Kathleen when that is not the case.

Presentation of Kathleen is Here (Eva Birthistle, 2024).

Is it supposed to be her mother’s spirit, or was there simply no budget for a steady cam? I would love to answer this question for you, but unfortunately the Q&A announced by Raindance for their second screening of Kathleen is Here mysteriously disappeared from the programme without any notice, so there was no chance to ask said question.

As good as its actors

Doupe delivers a great performance as Kathleen, matched by Dunne’s talent portraying Dee. Both of them create the perfect dynamic of stalker-stalked. Furthermore, Dee’s doomed attempt to save Kathleen as a way to redeem herself adds another layer of depth to their relationship. Their traumas match in a way that propels the issue into being really dangerous really fast, a situation that needn’t take place at all if all parties concerned had access to professional help.

All in all, Kathleen is here is a beautiful feature that highlights the need for therapy and how the simple action of talking to a professional from time to time can avoid suffering, tragedies and, in some cases, life gone down the drain. The film invites you to pause and reflect, maybe even to find a way to help this cause or others that might be in need of someone like you.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Kids that are put in foster care need to receive proper mental-health support.
  • If you hire a nanny, and she starts putting on your clothes and jewels, file a restraining order!
  • You can’t depend on other people to find happiness.
Still from Kathleen is Here (Eva Birthistle, 2024).

What’s your take? Have you watched Kathleen Is Here? Do you know why the hand-held camera? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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