I Must Away Film Review

I Must Away is a documentary film that explores the differing realities of what it means to be a migrant today. Through the intimacy of conversations with friends and letters to loved ones, Irish filmmaker Dennis Harvey delicately weaves a story that spans seven years and six countries. The film is in equal parts confessional and confrontational. As we move through the world with Harvey, he does not shy away from laying bare his personal experiences of loss, fear, and love.

It is in loss, fear, and love that we locate the unifying thread of humanity which sees Harvey befriend and journey with other migrants from Bangladesh, Chile, and Afghanistan, whose challenges are profoundly different.

To be an Irish emigrant today is to possess one of the most powerful passports in the world. While many of our reasons for leaving home continue to be steeped in hardships and inequalities, our options and privileges when moving across international borders are immense. The simple acts of going home and coming back to our desired destinations is something that cannot be taken for granted. I Must Away encourages the Irish audience to squeeze its perspective through a harsh fracture in our European society; From richly familiar sounds and images of home into the jarring dislocation of deportation orders, family reunifications, and residency permits. 

While Harvey is clearly comfortable with silence, he assembles an arresting soundtrack of Irish folk music to enhance the simplicity of his storytelling including Thomas McCarthy, Poor Creature and Lankum. This is the sort of artwork that makes one wonder why they haven’t made a documentary themselves. From the mundane to the extraordinary, viewers will reflect on the possibility that each of us, and each person we encounter, has their own remarkable story to share. One of the film’s most powerful moments is found in the words of Alicia, who has faced immeasurable challenges in moving from Peru, to Chile, to Spain in search of a better life. Alicia explains that her true hopes for her children lay far beyond the necessities of survival, but in the abundance of truly living:

“I’d like them to get to know the world. I’d like them to see [..] they can go anywhere.”

The Dublin International Film Festival screening of I Must Away was a brilliant occasion tinged with sadness as Harvey admits the cast, who became close friends in the filmmaking process, “were all meant to be here”. Borders, visas, and passports meant that this could not be so.


Borders: Studying Margins to Question The World is a temporary exhibition designed by the Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration (French National Museum of the History of Immigration). The exhibition invites visitors to deepen their understanding of how borders are constructed and evolve, beyond the dichotomy between open or closed, nationals and foreigners, economic migrants and political refugees. ‘Borders’ runs at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum until June 5th, 2023.


Amano Miura, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum