FILM REVIEW: Jimmy’s Hall

There will be many better equipped than myself to speak knowledgeably of the politics and struggles of Ireland in the early part of the 20th century. This and the power and influence of the Roman Catholic Church very much form the backdrop to Ken Loach’s most recent, excellent offering, ‘Jimmy’s Hall.’

Based on a true story, a small, rural town is offered the chance to recapture its former spirit and social heart and soul when favourite son Jimmy Gralton returns from some years away in New York City, coming home to his mother, the woman he loved and to a town that has not forgotten the man and ‘legend’ that he was and has remained in the minds of many, before he left.

Initially reticent, but under enthusiastic pressure from the locals that a decade earlier had helped Jimmy build a community hall in which they could read, sing and dance freely, out of sight of the oppressive, overbearing nannying of a disapproving church, Jimmy agrees to be the catalyst once again to enable the people to re-live former glories by re-opening the hall and thus begins the struggle between the highly influential Church and although now slightly muted, the very much indefatigable spirit of the town folk.

In true Ken Loach style, the characters are superbly well formed, very real and difficult not to take to our hearts. Jim Norton (Bishop Brennan of Father Ted fame to many) in particular is superbly well cast as Father Sheridan but in this instance, his rather draconian and dogmatic persona is anything but ‘boot up the arse’ material, instead he’s very much a figure commanding begrudging local respect, holding much influence over the town and its proceedings.

Injustices, moral victories, moments of great joy, farce and I must admit, more than a few moments when it ‘got a little dusty’ in the cinema, all blend together to make Jimmy’s Hall an excellent film and a true highlight of 2014.

I genuinely loved this; you’d need a heart of stone not to.

Once again, thank you to Greenwich PictureHouse for yet another excellent, members’, free screening.

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FILM REVIEW: Tom à la ferme

I saw the strap line of a review for ‘Tom à la ferme’ just after watching the film; it read, “dark yet strangely romantic.”

I’d go along with that although I’d also add “disjointed” and “complicated” but that’s “disjointed” to the film’s advantage and “complicated” in the way that only the most dis functional of relationships can be at times, be they relationships of the family or of passion.

It’s this sort of blend of ingredients that renders us utterly unable to avert our eyes or quell our ever growing sense of intrigue and it makes for a very unsettling, yet captivating viewing experience; “captivating” being very much the key word here.

Add to this, secrets and lies, a mild case of Stockholm syndrome, misplaced love, abuse and an overall sense of deep-rooted unhappiness and that’s quite a messed up recipe.

A mother from a family ‘unit’ that’s almost entirely unravelled, grieving for the loss of a son she really knew very little about. She lives in a world of denial with an elder, psychotic son that she can barely bring herself to love. He himself harbours  a sinister past and an equally unsavoury present, in a town that has disowned them both.

…and then there’s Tom, unwittingly stumbling into the middle of it all.

Will he be the catalyst for the building of family bridges or will his own truth (bizarrely perhaps the biggest unspoken secret of all) be the final straw? The tale unfolds…

This certainly ain’t Disney, but it’s an excellently observed piece from director and lead role (Tom) Xavier Dolan and definitely one of the year’s highlights to date.

FILM REVIEW: BLUE RUIN

A reluctant, blundering vigilante hobo with tunnel vision; driven by fear and with a score to settle… that’s Blue Ruin.

It’s a gripping thriller and real edge of the seat, heart in the mouth stuff, but that’s as much to do with Dwight (the film’s main character) and his own ineptitude when it comes to the killer crunch, as it is to do with the relentless, ‘eye for an eye’ premise of the plot.

A trained assassin Dwight is not.

Jeremy Saulnier’s direction is superb, so much so that Dwight’s fears are genuinely palpable and consequently they very much become our fears too.

What would we do if plunged into this very same, no-win scenario? Would we flee and hide or face up to things with a steely determination to seek vengeance, all the while scared out of our tiny minds?

There’s really no option in Dwight’s mind and certainly no going back, as an increasingly messy trail of carnage is left in his wake.

Blue Ruin is fairly Tarantino-esque in some ways; wickedly dark, sometimes brutal,  but with the tongue always firmly in cheek.

It’s a bloody mess, but it’s bloody good!