Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!
March 17th began as a religious celebration in honor of the patron saint of Ireland and is now known the world over as a day of global celebration. Though most that partake in the celebration are neither of Irish descent nor aware of the original intent, it is most widely assumed that on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone’s Irish! While that means green beers, green shirts, and green parades for most, for us at EoM, it means movies.
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here is a short-list of seven Irish films that I have enjoyed over the years. I’m planning a double-feature with no.2 and no.4, but any of these films would provide a great evening at the cinema.
The Commitments (1991)
The film adaptation of the 1987 novel by Roddy Doyle tells the story of Jimmy Rabbitte, a working class kid from Dublin who wants to create a soul band. Hosting auditions at his parents home, he pulls together only those that share his love for rhythm and blues to recreate the soul music of the United States in his hometown. Though all rock shows must eventually end, the music never stops as this comedic drama from 1991 is full of class songs like “Destination: Anywhere,” “Try A Little Tenderness,” “I Can’t Stand The Rain,” and many more classic soul tunes from Ottis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and Wilson Pickett.
The Boondock Saints (1999)
Fraternal twins, Connor and Murphy MacManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus), life a quiet life in Boston living in a small apartment, working in a factory, and hanging out with their friends at their favorite watering hole. Things change for the MacManus brothers when they pick a fight with a couple Russian mobsters and they find themselves in the center of a battle for Boston between the Russian mob, the Italian mob, and the F.B.I. agent Paul Smecker (my favorite of any Willem Dafoe performance). This film had the unfortunate luck to come out when the Columbine shooting took place, which resulted in a shorter, if not completely non-existent, life in theaters. Writer/director Troy Duffy put his heart and soul into a picture that remains authentic and original nearly twenty years later.
In Bruges (2008)
Some days you’re the dog and others, the hydrant. No one knows this better than hitmen Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) who are sent to Bruges, Belgium after a job goes horribly wrong. While awaiting orders from their boss, played by a delightfully devilish Ralph Fiennes, Ray and Ken ruminate on their lives, growing more impatient with each passing day. Though the dialogue is a bit absurd and the situations somewhat comical, writer/director Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths) has a knack for using death to invite a rebirth within his characters and the audience. What do we think is valuable versus what holds value? Take a look and you might find an answer in Bruges.
The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day (2009)
After the events of the original, the MacManus brothers are hiding in Ireland until they are pulled back to Boston when the death of a pastor is blamed on them. Along the way home, they make friends with Romeo (Clifton Collins Jr. having tons of fun), a fan of the Saints who has connections of his own within the city. Once home and reunited with their friends in the Boston P.D., the three of them must uncover the plot, while staying out of the reach of F.B.I. agent Eunice Bloom (Julie Benz). Rarely do sequels pull off the difficult task of honoring the original and, at times, “All Saints Day” does struggle. The style is repetitive and the dialogue is riddled with call-backs that lack the comedic punch of the original. “All Saints Day” does attempt to instill a lineage to explain the events of the first film, while setting up the eventual third. One thing is clear – the cast are having a ball and that’s what makes this film work. Every one is all in, no matter how ridiculous things get.
The Guard (2011)
This comedic mystery from John Michael McDonagh (Calvary) focuses on unconventional cop Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) who is forced to work with F.B.I. agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) when ties to an international drug-smuggling ring are found in Ireland. Gleeson is excellent when he gets to play brutish, slightly unhinged characters and with Boyle he gets to dive in. To him, authority is a thing to ignore unless you get in his way and the straight-laced FED is always in his way. Typically the odd-couple action comedy only works so long, but McDonagh is able to maintain the story, and the laughs, all the way to the end. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a Paul Fieg comedy. The action is real and often gritty. But what else do you expect from Ireland?
Featuring Michael Fassbender as the titular character Frank, this musical odyssey into the mind of man seeking a way to connect with the world has to be the strangest movie I saw that year. Masked in a papier-mâché mask that he never takes off, Frank uses everything from tufts of cloth to the smells and stains of a bowling alley as musical inspiration. Newest member to Frank’s band, Jon, played with delightful creeping envy and deep sadness by Domhnall Gleeson, wants to learn how Frank sees the world, so that he too can create inspiring music for the masses. From the premise and the trailer, you’d think this would be an oddball comedy and you would be horrifically disappointed. Instead, it surprises by being an exploration into the concept of acceptance and what we try to do to connect with the world around us. While it was nowhere near the absurd comedy that the trailer suggests, I left my viewing most certainly affected and full of love.
Inspired by the 2010 novel of the same name, this Golden Globe and Oscar winning, Irish-Canadian film is a story of resiliency. Told primarily from the perspective of five-year-old Jack (the amazing Jacob Tremblay), he and his mother (Brie Larson) live in a garden shed against their will. She has been there for seven years and he has never once seen the world outside of the shed, except through a small skylight in the roof. Here, in a place called “Room,” Jack has grown up with only his mother and the television for company. When an opportunity arises for escape, what he thinks he knows about the world changes very quickly. It would be easy to dismiss this film as nothing more than a standard novel adaptation, but the performances from Tremblay and Larson are spectacular. They deliver deeply effecting performances that will rattle you as observe them struggle with the realities they face. Jack who believes that his food, clothes, and medicine are conjured through magic and his mother who must endure great horrors to keep him alive and healthy. Ultimately, it’s a story of perseverance and the lengths a parent will endure when it comes to their children.