Contemporary World Cinema

Don't Talk to Irene

Pat Mills

Don ttalktoirene 01

An overweight teenage girl follows her passion for cheerleading and signs up for a talent-search reality show in order to prove that "physical perfection" isn’t everything.

Irene Willis (Michelle McLeod) lives in a town deemed the most insignificant geographical location in North America. The cycle of life is predictable and bland, something 15-year-old Irene, "the fattest girl in high school," might just be able to shake up. Fuelled by the dream of becoming a cheerleader, but constantly told by both her overprotective mother and society that she isn't exactly a fit for the role, Irene turns to her confidante and all-around god: Geena Davis. Speaking to Irene via the A League of Their Own poster on her bedroom wall, Geena provides the inspiration and tough no-nonsense motivation she needs to face her bullies and follow her passions.

When Irene gets suspended and is forced to do community service at a retirement home — run by discipline freak Barrett (Scott Thompson) — alongside her bullies and her new friend, Tesh (a gender non-conforming, glitzy dreamer), an opportunity arises. If she can't be a high-school cheerleader, maybe she can turn her new-found circle of elderly friends into an unlikely dance troupe.

Pat Mills established himself with his dark comedy Guidance (TIFF '14) and brings to Don't Talk to Irene his smart, sly, and sharp humour. This is an empowering comedy about acceptance on your own terms. Disarmingly honest, Irene goes through the world with no filter, quick repartee, and an underlying sense of potential achievement. She just needs a bit of a lift to soar. You go, girl!

MAGALI SIMARD

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