With St. Patty’s Day just around the corner, now seems to be a good time to brush up on Irish cinema. Consider one of the following films from the Emerald Isle.
The Secret of Roan Inish (1995)
In this enchanting family friendly fantasy 10 year old Fiona is sent to live with her grandparents in Donegal, Ireland and learns the family legend of how one of their ancestors married a Selkie. She soon comes to learn that this legend and the disappearance of her baby brother purportedly washed out to sea are intertwined. Directed by John Sayles (Lone Star, Passion Fish) at the Gerardmer Film Festival it took home the International Critics Award.
In the Name of the Father (1994)
Directed by Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In America) and starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite, this powerful film is based on true life events. Gerry Conlon falsely accused of an IRA bombing was coerced into a confession that resulted not only in his imprisonment but that of his father as well. Featuring incredible performances by Day-Lewis, Postlethwaite, and Emma Thompson it garnered seven Academy Award nominations including Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Commitments (1991)
Based on the novel of the same name by Roddy Doyle, and directed by Alan Parker. In this bittersweet comedy (that won four BAFTA awards including Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Film) Jimmy Rabbitte struggles to form the “World’s Hardest Working Band,” and bring soul music to Dublin. It also kicked off a trilogy of films based on Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Rabbitte novels that continued with The Snapper (1993) and concluded with The Van. (1996)
The Magdalene Sisters (2002)
Written and directed by Peter Mullan and telling the story of three girls who have the misfortune to be exiled as Magdalene Asylum for ‘fallen women” in Ireland where they are held indefinitely, used as unpaid prison labor, and persecuted by sadistic nuns, it often feels like a horror film. The worst part is that it’s all based on truth. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, the Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the European Union Media Prize.
Breakfast on Pluto (2005)
Written and directed by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Michael Collins) Breakfast tells the story of Patrick “Kitten” Braden (a wonderful Cillian Murphy) a transgender woman who leaves her small town in Ireland in the 70’s to go to London and search for her mother. Along the way she takes up with a rock star, collides with the IRA, is falsely arrested and ends up working as a stripper. A madcap caper punctuated by moments of real pathos and another great performance by Liam Neeson (before he turned into an action star), it won four Irish Film and Television (IFTA) awards including Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Script.
A harrowing biography of the final days of IRA member Bobby Sands who led the 1981 Hunger Strike and died doing so, it launched the careers of both its director Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave and Shame) and its leading man Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, X-Men, Prometheus). While incredibly painful to watch, McQueen manages to find visual beauty among the horror and Fassbender’s performance as the emaciated Sandsc(he risked major organ damage starving himself into the role), is as breathtaking as it must have been excruciating to perform. Winner of six IFTA awards including Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor.
The Guard (2011)
In this brilliant comedic crime thriller written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (Calvary) an unorthodox Irish policeman (Irish national treasure Brendan Gleeson) forms an odd couple with a by the books FBI agent (U.S. national treasure Don Cheadle) to investigate an international drug smuggling ring in Connemara. It won four IFTA awards; Best Film, Best Director, Best Script, and Best Supporting Actress. It also won The Guardian’s First Film Award for 2012-the first non-British film to do so.