Sunday, December 27, 2015

"Jimmy's Hall" depicts the communist scare in 1930s Ireland, but you need to know some Irish political history

Jimmy’s Hall” (2014), directed by Ken Loach and written by Paul Laverty and based on a stage play by Donal O’Kelly, is set in a period of Irish history, following the Irish Civil War, that will be obscure to many American viewers.

James Gralton (Barry Ward) returns to Ireland from the U.S. in 1932, during the Depression, to help his mother (Aileen Henry) run a family farm. He re-opens a dance hall to invite free-thinking people who are thought to be sympathetic to communism, at a time when the “establishment” of landowners and the Church are very sensitive about the idea of possible revolutionary expropriation in the future.

Jimmy insists his motives are not political, and he wants to help people.  The church shows its hypocrisy when a girl is beaten and shamed in a service after merely having attended a dance at the hall.  Jimmy helps another family being evicted from land, resulting in a political backlash against him and his mother, leading to his deportation back to the US merely justified by his having a US passport (even though he was born in the farmhouse). The idea that other family members can be targeted or endangered by one’s well-intended political or social activities is familiar to me.

“If Christ were here today, there are several members of this parish who would have him crucified again.”

The official site is here (Sony Pictures Classics).
A possible film for comparison is “Angela’s Ashes” (1999, Alan Parker, Paramount).

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