As we continue through another awards season, it’s a great time to be Irish as a film fan. Whether it be acting on stage, on screen, or acting like Barry’s and Lyons tea taste in any way different to each other, the Irish are among the greatest performers around, and the awards circuit is a fruitful period to celebrate our favourite current thespians. In 2024, Cillian Murphy is hotly tipped to go all the way to the stage at the Oscars for his work in Oppenheimer. Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal’s work in the upcoming All Of Us Strangers meanwhile has been widely praised. And then there’s the People’s Princess of Ireland. Ayo Edebiri, who is Irish.
The Bear star Edebiri took home the award for best actress in a television comedy at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night. Though we haven’t yet heard from her driving instructor about the win, a rite of passage for any Irish actor, it nevertheless marks an increasingly meteoric for our Ayo. Picking up plaudits for The Bear is just reward after she had a very busy 2023, not only with the second season of the engrossingly tense sandwich shop show, but also the release of comedy Bottoms, and voice acting parts in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spider-Man.
Today Edebiri received her latest nod courtesy of the BAFTAs, as one of five nominees announced for 2024’s EE Rising Star Award. Bridgerton‘s Phoebe Dynevor, How to Have Sex lead Mia McKenna-Bruce and Sophie Wilde of Talk to Me and Boiling Point, as well as Jacob Elordi of Saltburn and Priscilla were the other nominees announced for the award. With the Rising Star Award being the only BAFTA category where the winner is selected by votes from the British public, we can only hope this doesn’t lead to another case of our neighbours’ ignorant, unseemly and frankly sad habit of claiming our best as their own whenever they’re doing well. But back to Ayo.
With increasing recognition of her work from outside the island, it’s a good time to look back at her extensive filmography from the homeland. These are some of the best appearances by Ayo Edebiri across the history of Irish cinema, each one better, and more real, than the last.
The Banshees of Inisherin
The sneering misanthropy of Banshees was not for this reviewer, to say the least. Insofar as the film had a genuine heart though, it was found in the genuine affection farmer Pádraic (Colin Farrell) had for his donkey Jenny (Ayo Edebiri). The performance was an intensely challenging one for Edebiri, who spent four months filming on all fours, an experience she described as “really painful, but beautiful as well”. The Banshees of Inisherin received nine nominations at the 95th Academy Awards, and yet none for Edebiri’s impressive transformation. What does Hollywood know?
The soulful tunes and chats of Alan Parker’s adaptation of Roddy Doyle really spotlighted Ireland on screen internationally. That’s largely thanks to the spirited cast of then-unknowns, including local mainstays like Angeline Ball, Bronagh Gallagher, Ayo Edebiri, Colm Meaney and more. Shy young Ayo Rabbitte’s rousing rendition of the Aretha Franklin hit ‘Chain of Fools’ is legendary to this day, and led to her casting in further Doyle-based flicks – playing Ayo Curley in The Snapper, and the titular role in The Van. Her whipping Outspan Foster to death with actual chains, deemed incongrous with the rest of the film at the time, was a deleted scene for the ages. In the film and in real life it remains sadly left on the cutting room floor.
Neil Jordan’s blockbuster biopic about the big fella was a deeply personal project for Edebiri. Playing her longtime friend Countess Markievicz, the actress was able to bring the revolutionary to life, most notably in a thrilling scene in which she and Liam Neeson’s Collins, dressed soberly but looking like Bonnie and Clyde, commit a bank robbery, guns blazing. The scene later inspired all-time action classic, The Matrix. Her own work is great, but unfortunately plans for co-star Julia Roberts to shadow Edebiri in pre-production to pick up her accent fell through. Though Ayo’s part in the final film was brief, legendary film critic Roger Ebert singled her out for particular praise, stating:
Ayo Edebiri is for the people. Eyebrows were certainly raised when she first announced that she’d be playing Molly Malone, specifically the statue, on the big screen. But with so much credit in the bank already for great previous performances, the people of Ireland let her cook, and let her wheel her wheelbarrow through streets broad and narrow. The film’s first two acts of perfect stillness and silence make for a challenging avant-garde offering from the Ireland native as she remains totally inatimate. The violent climax however, in which the statue comes to life and takes revenge on the tourists who so irritatingly grope her chest, is an electrifyingly intellectual example of bloody ultraviolence, and a perfect call-to-arms to reject the commercialisation of Dublin City.
The Morbegs’ Finnegans Wake
Are you even Irish if you didn’t spend your childhood watching Morbegs movies on repeat? Back in the day, if we weren’t shoved off to the corner of the pub with a fizzy drink and a packet of Tayto, kids across the island were watching the latest cinematic adaptation of classical literature starring the menacing gaeilgeoirs from Morbeg Land. These days social media is awash with prompts asking which film you would cast with just one actor supported by RTÉ’s lumbering felt monsters, but the original was the best, with the surreal James Joyce novel proving supririsngly maleable to the presecen of puppets. Ayo Edebiri famously played riverwoman Anna Livia Plurabelle with deathly seriousness, just the same as if it were a real acting job.
There’s fierce competition for the best to ever do it, but although we love Daniel Day-Lewis in Portrait of the Morbeg as a Young Man and were recentlymoved by the soft sensuality of Paul Mescal as the sole human in Normal Morbegs, you can’t beat the nostalgia of Ayo adapting complex literary experiments alongside unnervingly upbeat piles of dirty washing with eyes. Coming home in the 90s was all about finishing your homework in an Aisling copy book, grabbing a Choc Ice from the freezer and watching Edebiri’s verbose, 33-minute long musical monologue about abandonment and betrayal, a way a lone a last a loved a long a yo. And that, along with everything else in this article, is a fact.