That’s right! You can barley believe that it’s St. Patrick’s Day again! Green beer, in New York there are green bagels (I mean REAL bagels) and everywhere else its a good excuse to get sloppy and wistful like you’re at an all day Irish wake. However, for me St. Pat makes me think of all the remarkable contributions to world of film we have received from and tell the stories of the emerald isle. Just in case your idea of a good time does NOT mean the parade, or the pub, or you just want an excuse to break from your intake of Jameson or Harp, Kilkenny or Guinness (or a delightful combination thereof…) here are my top 7 Irish tales. And as I said above – time to “get your Irish on!”
In the Name of the Father
Directed by the incomparable Irish director Jim Sheridan (who will show up numerous times in this list) the agonizing story of a forced confession to an IRA related bombing which imprisons both father and son is not only one of the best Irish films of all time, but one of the best films period. Daniel Day Lewis having already honed his connection with Sheridan in “My Left Foot” (see below – no surprise there) is based on the true story of Gerry Conlon and his father Giuseppe. Guiseppe Conlon is played by Pete Postlethwaite, a deeply talented actor who left us far too soon. His face alone could outperform most other actors concerted efforts.
Waking Ned Devine
Sweet, funny with a great premise “Waking Ned Devine” shows a somewhat stereotypical but absolutely lovable Irish community pulling a grand stunt. With a skilled ensemble cast it features some familiar Irish character actors such as David Kelly, Ian Bannen & James Nesbitt (Bofur in the “Hobbit” films) you will laugh and cheer them on. And besides the story who doesn’t love old Irish guys riding mopeds naked?
With this semi-true film Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova launched into the public consciousness and into the hearts of buskers and singer songwriters everywhere. About one week in Dublin it is filled with music, connection and some damn fine harmonies. It is a lovely, urban ultimate love story. Get out your hankies. Filmed over three weeks for $100,000 Euros “Once” is a testament to the power and viability of TRUE independent cinema.
Yet another effort from the marvelous Jim Sheridan about an Irish family adapting to life in America. Following a family tragedy, and a staggering loss of faith, the family finds itself in a New York City Hell’s Kitchen tenement in the midst of a mixed community of sorrow & fear. The couple is convincingly brought to life by the otherworldly Samantha Morton and Paddy Considine, a British character actor who you know-but-don’t-realize-you-know. This is an emotional film which some would call maudlin but regardless, a master filmmaker and a story about loss and redemption – what else could you want?
The Devil’s Own
What do you get when you mix Brad Pitt with an EPIC Irish mullet and accent, Harrison Ford flaring his nostrils and saying every line of dialogue with his “This. is. the. most. important. thing. EVER. said!” inflection, Treat Williams (remember Treat?) and Natasha McElhoneand her yards of hair with director Alan J. Pakula? You get “The Devil’s Own.” A rollicking action IRA soldier in hiding late ’90s testosterone fest! I must admit to being a sucker for Pakula as he was the directorial force behind some of the greatest movies from my favorite era -1970′s Hollywood; All the President’s Men, Klute, The Parallax View just to name a few. This is a fun one – take it for a ride!
State of Grace
I loved this movie when it came out and I still LOVE this movie. Aside from its dream cast including Sean Penn, Ed Harris, Gary Oldman, John C. Reilly, John Turturro and Robin Wright its a damn good story about what happens when you try to go “home.” The Irish mob in NYC, my hometown, and the classic storyline of loyalties betrayed, familial expectations and woes with a GREAT score makes this a wonderful ensemble film led bravely by Penn. The screenwriter Dennis McIntyre wrote only this film and died in 1990 leaving, I think, a deeply unfulfilled potential. This one will rip your heart out and eat it for lunch and you’ll love every moment of it.
My Left Foot
By 1989 Daniel Day Lewis was becoming somewhat “known” having made “My Beautiful Launderette” and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (don’t even get me started on that film…) and forged his bond with – yes again, you know it – director Jim Sheridan for what would be the first of three exquisite collaborations to date. The film tells the the true story of Christy Brown who was born with cerebral palsy to a large Irish family who spared him little pity, thank God. I have a hard time believing anyone has not seen this film but then again, I’d like to be proven wrong on that. Even if you have seen it previously, revisit it. Not merely for the incomparable performance by Day Lewis, or the fact that it’s a close to perfect piece of film-making, but watch it to get some damn perspective on life which is always a good thing.