“The Runway”

Susan Granger’s review of “The Runway” (Tribeca Film)


    Scheduled for limited theatrical release but available on VOD, this light-hearted, almost-true tale won the audience award for Best Irish Feature at Galway Film Fleadh – and for good reason. It’s charming!

    When a plane crashes near Drumoleen in rural County Cork in 1983, nine-year old Paco Thomas (Jamie Kierans) is the first to spot the pilot, battered, bruised Ernesto Cordoba (Demian Bichir), a Colombian who speaks no English. Since Paco’s single mother (Kerry Condon) told him that his father lives in Spain, Paco has been listening to Spanish-language tapes. Because of his smattering knowledge of the language, Paco becomes Ernesto’s official translator to the villagers who are soon convinced – by highly imaginative Paco – that the mysterious, Cuban cigar-smoking pilot who dropped out of the sky is some kind of a heroic celebrity, related to Argentine Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. To the surprise of the Mayor (Donacha Crowley), they not only offer to rebuild Ernesto’s Martin B26 Marauder but also construct a tarmac runway so it can take off.  Before the recession, Drumoleen was known as the double-glazing capital and its workers are experienced in sheet-metal fabricating, electronics and engineering. But when a seedy Colombian detective appears,  threatening to reveal a dark secret about Ernesto, the town begins to question whom they can trust.

    Inspired by actual events involving a Mexican pilot who made an emergency landing in Mallow, debuting Irish writer/director Ian Power has created a genuinely uplifting, heartwarming story about a boy yearning for a father, a man wanting a family and unemployed townspeople needing a task to get them out of a communal depression.

    Renowned Mexican actor Demian Bichir, who won an Oscar nomination for his touching performance as an undocumented gardener trying to connect with his teenage son in Chris Weitz’s “A Better Life” and played Esteban Reyes opposite Mary Louise Parker on Showtime’s “Weeds,” crafts a finely tuned portrayal of a reluctant idol.

    On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Runway” is an adventurous, engaging 8, particularly for those who love Irish cinema.