Director: Ken Loach
Cast: Barry Ward, Simone Kirby, Andrew Scott, Jim Norton, Brian F. O'Byrne
Genre: Drama, History
Country of Origin: UK, Ireland, France 2014 109 mins.
In competition Cannes 2014 International Film Festival
Released by eONE
Jimmy Gralton's (Barry Ward) sin was to build the Pearce-Connolly dance hall on a rural crossroads in County Leitrim where young people could come to learn, to argue, to dream and to dance and have fun. It's popularity grew and its socialist and free-spirited reputation gained the attention of the all powerful Catholic Church and Irish Free State politicians who closed the hall and forced Jimmy to flee to America. Jimmy Gralton's dangerous and subversive, he encourages people to think and act for themselves. A decade later, at the height of the Depression, Jimmy returns to County Leitrim to look after his elderly mother. It's the quiet life for Jimmy but as he reintegrates into the community and sees the poverty and cultural oppression, the activist within him is stirred. Jimmy rebuilds the hall which reopens old wounds.
'Jimmy's Hall' is based on a true story, adapted by Ken Loach's regular creative collaborator Paul Laverty, from a play by Donal O'Reilly.
It's beautifully shot by Robbie Ryan with strong performances. Barry Ward plays Jimmy as a passionate and tender man sensitive to the injustices that he sees and at war with the church and the Irish Free State, Father Sheridan (Jim Norton) breathes fire and brimstone from the pulpit yet has a nagging admiration for Jimmy, bullying IRA veteran O'Keefe's (Brian F. O'Byrne) a man lost in himself, Oonag (Simone Kirby), Jimmy's sweetheart who couldn't travel to New York with him and has since married helps him to open the hall and the wonderful Aileen Henry plays Alice, Jimmy's long suffering mother, the tea always ready for all.
Ken Loach has a love of Ireland, of it's people and its language and 'Jimmy's Hall is an affectionate tribute. The civil war's over and it's now the task of the younger generation to bring about change. Compared to some of Loach's previous work, it's a bit thin, the Catholic Church and the Garda being the baddies and Jimmy and his followers the goodies but it's heartfelt and passionate and an expression of an ideal.
I hope this won't be Ken Loach's last film. If not features, then perhaps documentaries - you don't have to dig very deep to find the distorted truth behind the public smile.