Films for St. Patrick’s Day

The Quiet Man 1952. Based on a Saturday Evening Post short story by Matt Walsh. Directed by John Ford. Academy Awards for Direction and Cinematography. Irish born, retired boxer Sean “Trooper Thorn” Thornton (John Wayne) travels home in the 1920s to buy back his family farm and settle. He falls in love with Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), sister of bullying Squire “Red” Will Danaher, who also wants to buy the Thornton family’s house/land.

In order to further the young people’s marriage, villagers trick the possessive Will (Victor McLaglen) into believing that Widow Tillane (Mildred Natwick) will marry him if his sister is no longer under his roof. Sean repeatedly ignores traditions Mary Kate and her family hold sacrosanct. The biggest of these is her dowry, a custom her intended dismisses as antiquated and in which his bride takes pride. When he refuses to fight her brother, he’s deemed a coward. The fiery Mary Kate causes Taming of the Shrew-like scenes. Meanwhile, Will has his own problems. Often objected to as depiction of an idealized Irish society, with only implied social divisions based on class, politics and religion. A departure for both Ford and Wayne. Free with Amazon Prime.

Darby O’Gill and The Little People 1959. Adapted from the Darby O’Gill stories of Herminie Templeton Kavanagh. Directed by Robert Stephenson. Some of the effects are admittedly dated and it’s Disney sentimental, but the film possesses simple charm, a young, handsome Sean Connery, and a wonderful performance by Albert Sharpe as Darby. Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.

Darby O’Gill (Sharpe), the village of Rathcullen’s resident Leprechaun expert, has been trying to trick King Brian of the Little People (Jimmy O’Dea), out of a crock of gold his entire adult life. The two have mutual respect as worthy adversaries. O’Gill is the estate caretaker of Lord Fitzpatrick, but lately spends all his time in the pub telling stories. The squire has decided to gently retire and replace Darby with Michael McBride (Sean Connery).

To put off telling his pretty daughter Katie (Janet Munro), Darby has Michael stay with them until they have to move. The young people fall in love. If only he had the gold, Darby thinks, his situation wouldn’t have to change. He captures King Brian. Exchanges between the two are mischievous fun. A town bully who wants both Katie and the job complicates things. Trickery wins. Rent on Amazon Prime.

In the Name of The Father 1993. Based on the true story of The Guilford Four, falsely convicted of the 1974 Guilford Pub Bombings, which killed four off-duty British soldiers and a civilian. Directed by Jim Sheridan. As you might expect from Daniel Day-Lewis and Jim Sheridan, the film is harsh and authentic. Slacker Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis), whose father Patrick (Pete Postlethwaite – terrific) is IRA, is sent to London to live with an aunt in hopes he’ll make something of himself. Instead, he moves to a squat and steals a prostitute’s financial stash.

Showing off back in Belfast, on the jealous tip of another squatter, the young man is picked up and sentenced to life as one of the Guilford Four. While incarcerated, Gerry meets the real bomber who tells him he’d confessed to police, but embarrassed authorities hid the truth. The film depicts evolution of Gerry’s attitude and follows dogged investigation by his lawyer Gareth Peirce (Emma Thompson), that eventually got him released.

To prepare for his role, Day-Lewis lost over 50 pounds. To gain insight into Conlon’s thoughts and feelings, the actor spent three days and nights in a jail cell. With Corin Redgrave and Beatie Edney. Seven Academy Award nominations, oddly winning none. Rent on Amazon Prime.

The Secret of Roan Inish 1995 Based on the novel Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry by Rosalie K. Fry. Directed by John Sayles. Enchanting in the best sense of the word. Naturalistic and low key in execution. 1946. Young Fiona (Jeni Courtney) is sent to live with old school grandparents. There she learns about her heritage and ancestral home on the tiny island Roan Inish (in Irish, Rón Inis or “Island of seals”), which the family abandoned when Fiona’s baby brother, Jamie, went “missing.” The event is bound in legends of Selkies (seal women), one of whom may have been Jamie’s mother.

Drawn to the island and spurred by the Grans imminent loss of their home, Fiona and her cousin Eamon (Richard Sheridan) secretly repair the houses on Roan Inish in hopes they can all move back. While there, she’s convinced she sees Jamie. The legend comes full circle. Another Selkie fantasy is  Ondine 2010 Directed by Neil Jordan. Rent both on Amazon Prime.

Waking Ned Divine 1998. Directed by Kirk Jones. A hoot. Lifelong friends Jackie O’Shea (Ian Bannon) and Michael O’Sullivan (David Kelly) discover the latest National Lottery winner lives in their tiny village of 52 people. In hopes the winner will share largess, Jackie suddenly offers acts of kindness to one resident after another. No one can figure out why. Many wonder whether Jackie himself has come into money after he hosts a chicken dinner for everyone.

The only person missing that evening is Ned Divine. Jackie takes a plate out to his cottage to find Ned dead before the television with the ticket in his hand. All that’s left is to convince a representative from the Lottery Commission that Michael is, in fact, Ned. How they do so is priceless. When the win turns out to be unexpectedly large, Jackie’s wife, Annie (Fionulla Flanagan), is against stealing it. The plotters come up with a compromise, but are threatened by the local obstreperous old woman. Fun. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Agnes Browne 1999. Based on The Mammy by Brendan O’Carroll. Produced, directed and starring Angelica Huston. A labor of love, this small film tells the story of 1967 Dublin widow Agnes Browne (Angelica Huston), and her struggle to provide for and manage seven (well played) children between the ages of two and 14. Agnes is reduced to borrowing from the local loan shark, faces a crisis with her best friend, Marion (Marion O’Dwyer), and connects with a potential new lover, Pierre (Arno Chevrier). The kids are enterprising, though not always smart, the community supportive, the loan shark threatening. Playing himself, vocalist Tom Jones steps in to save the day. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Once 2007 Directed by John Carney. The small, sweet (not treacley) story of two struggling musicians who meet and fall in love. A Busker the film calls “Guy” (Glen Hansard) and a Czech flower seller/closet pianist it calls “Girl” (Marketa Irglova), meet on the streets of Dublin. Inspired by each other, they write and record songs together. The film is about music which, as collaborators, will potentially change their lives. Both characters are otherwise committed, but… The two leads, Hansard and Irglová, are professional musicians. In interviews they both declared themselves unlikely to pursue further acting. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Jimmy’s Hall 2015. Directed by Ken Loach. An affectionate, rather realistic look at a small Irish village coming together to thwart oppression. Based on real events. 1932. Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) returns home after ten years in New York having been deported as a Stalinist. As he buckles down to help the family farm, Jimmy resolves to refurbish and run the now dilapidated Pearse-Connolly Hall, so the now repressed community has a place to let off steam and he has a venue to disseminate ideas.

The hero is surprised to come up against political and religious opposition lead by The Gardai (National Police Service) who decry his politics and Father Sheridan (Jim Norton) who believes dancing etc. will lead to licentious behavior. Both men are multi-dimensional. There’s a love story, an act of perhaps misplaced nobility, and a true, less than preferable ending. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Belfast 2021. Written and Directed by Kenneth Branaugh. Academy Award Best Screenplay. A coming of age story based on Branaugh’s own Catholic childhood in 1969 Ireland at the beginning of “The Troubles.” The film is told through perspective of 9 year-old Buddy. Concerned for the family, Pa returns from working in England only to be conscripted by a lead rabble-rouser for the cause. He demurs, but violence finds their street.

Buddy makes friends with a Catholic girl and is drawn into local mischief by his cousin Moira whose playmates are Ulster loyalists. Pa has a hard time convincing the family they must leave. A particularly tender relationship between Buddy and his grandmother (Judi Dench) shines. Also with Jamie Dorman, Caitriona Balfe, Ciaran Hinds. The film is slow but realistic and superbly acted.

Finian’s Rainbow 1968 Directed by Francis Ford Coppola is, alas, a bad film.

Top photo: Bigstock

About Alix Cohen (1726 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.