Ireland has a grand lineage of awesome artists who, for whatever reason, hated the land of their birth. James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, G.B. Shaw, that bro from Thin Lizzy -- all of them owed some part of their creative output to the deep-seated loathing they felt for the Emerald Isle (well, maybe Phil Lynott is a bit of a stretch). This patriotic ambivalent streak seemingly inherent in any truly authentic Irish artist is in large part the driving force behind Turning Green, Michael Aimette & John G. Hofmann’s directorial debut.
Turning Green’s protagonist, 16-year-old James Powers (Donal Gallery), is consumed by an intense desire to emigrate to America. In addition to his uncanny penchant for masturbating, James spends his days in a local pub, performing alcoholic feats of valor for a meager income. His intentions are to save money, buy a ticket to New York City, and leave behind what he considers a piss-poor country bereft of anything interesting, culturally or otherwise. Along for the ride is James' younger brother, Pete (Killian Morgan), who doesn't understand his brother’s vehement rejection of all things Celtic. Unfortunately, Pete’s character is completely undeveloped throughout the film, and scenes of the prepubescent boy being encouraged by his old brother to drink and smoke cigarettes do nothing to instill sympathy for James.
The two Powers brothers, who were shipped back to Ireland from NYC after their poor mother died, have been living with three of their aunts for the past six years. Sharing a dwelling with his tritely batty aunts provides yet another reason for James’ efforts to leave the country. The women of the house are concerned with young James’ digestion, worried by the amount of time he always spends in the bathroom, assuming, naturally, that he must be constantly constipated. The humor that stems from James’ bathroom behavior and his aunts’ apparent inability to connect the dots is worn out and tired, a staple of the coming-of-age story that hasn’t been kind to many of the genre’s less adventurous offerings.
Fearing the worst, James’ aunts send him to a specialist in London to get his colon checked out. It is James’ rampant onanism that provides him with his surest way out of Europe. Taking into account his personal obsession with sex, and assuming that any red-blooded Irish boy will surely be as obsessed as he, James decides to strike up a working relationship with a magazine vendor from London. Buying pornographic magazines at cost and selling them to the men of his small town at a grossly inflated price, James makes a small fortune, enough to finally leave Ireland.
But wait! A local bookie, who James has worked for in the past, finds out, and it looks like he’s going to crush all of James’ dreams. Of course, this poor state of affairs could have bordered on tragedy, if there’d been anything in the preceding events of the film to make the audience want anything good to happen for James, whose cavalier attitude about life and complete ingratitude for anything he’s been given, have, by this point, left the audience feeling like he’s getting what his impish ass deserves. In a nutshell, Turning Green is an unremarkable film about an unlikable young man whose disdain for those around him is completely unjustified.