Lana is a young Irish teen dealing with the difficulties of inner city Dublin and an alcoholic mother. But in the midst of it all, she’s still a young woman coming of age and preparing to go to the Irish version of the prom — the “debs” — with her boyfriend Darren.
But when her preparations for the big event are in danger of derailment from her mother — and her social anxieties about fitting in can’t be allayed easily — Lana’s big night is almost ruined. But Darren offers her an act of devotion that offers her support and shelter, giving her the strength to give and receive love.
Director Brendan Canty and co-writer Alan O’Gorman have created a genuinely romantic, uplifting drama about what it means to really love someone and be there when your loved one needs you the most. The film’s achievement is in how it eschews genre cliches of both teen films and romantic melodrama to offer a realistic portrayal of young love, making its ending all the more well-earned and heartwarming.
The success of the short rests on the subtle yet well-calibrated storytelling, which captures the nuances and texture of Lana’s life with clarity and a lack of melodrama. Lana’s life has its difficulties, and the short but tense scenes of her home life ably capture the volatility and hostility she faces from her alcoholic mother. Lana tries to get through her life as well as she can, and part of her solace comes in the form of her boyfriend Darren.
The film especially shines with the nuanced, beautifully warm performances by the central couple in question, played by performers Barry Keoghan — seen in “Dunkirk” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” — and newcomer Gabby Murphy, who deftly portrays the disappointment, anger and ultimately sadness of dealing with an alcoholic parent while trying to carve out a life of her own.
Even though the relationship seems to be in its early phases — and Lana hasn’t fully opened up about her family difficulties with Darren yet — the couple’s humor, chemistry and affection are apparent, making it easy for them to root for.
Shot in a gritty, naturalistic way that captures the unglamorous environs of inner city Dublin as well as the difference between Lana and Darren’s worlds, it has an almost documentary feel visually. But the offhand, observational approach works beautifully with the film’s emotional register, giving it nuance and realism.
In the middle of Lana’s fraught, uncertain world, Darren and the support he offers stands out. And when Lana falls apart emotionally as the pressures of her home life and social life collide, his act of kindness stands out in Lana’s emotionall deprived world as something genuinely beautiful and meaningful for Lana — which then enables her to give love elsewhere, where it’s especially lacking and much needed.
“For You” stands out in a field of romantic drama as an emotionally mature and intelligent take on love, with an especial lack of romantic film cliches, whether it’s a reunion scene in the rain or a kiss set to a soaring orchestral score. By keeping its approach rooted in Lana’s social reality, Darren’s loyalty, kindness and love for her stand out for its steadfastness and generosity.
Because the film is authentic and unvarnished, Darren’s act of love isn’t a case of a knight in shining armor rescuing a girl, but the act of offering support and care when someone needs it the most — and ultimately, a true example of unconditional love, which gives us the strength to grant it selflessly to others.