An Irish Movie For All Ye Moods On Saint Patrick's Day
Timed just a couple days before St. Patrick's Day, the Oscar-nominated film Brooklyn, which looks at a young Irish immigrant managing in 1950s America, is now available as a DVD/Blu-ray or digital release. But there are other films capture the Irish (or Irish-American) spirit:
The Fight For Independence
THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY (2006)
Winner of the Palme d'Or, Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes The Barley examines the rifts between countrymen and brothers during Ireland's fight for freedom in the 1920s. Jim Emerson enthused, "With almost tactile immediacy—you almost can smell the smoke and the wild grasses in the hills, feel the rain and the fog in your bones—this movie places you shoulder to shoulder with people who are living and dying for their country, their families, their friends and their principles."
MICHAEL COLLINS (1996)
This is Hollywood's big-budget take on Irish Civil war, with Liam Neeson starring as revolutionary Michael Collins and a star-studded supporting cast including Alan Rickman, Stephen Rea, Aidan Quinn and Julia Roberts (!) as his love Kitty Kiernan.
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER (1993)
The tensions of Ireland during the era of high IRA violence are on fine display in this Jim Sheridan film. Based on the true-life story of Gerry Conlon who was imprisoned, as well as his father, for planning IRA bombings in 1974, it was later discovered that authorities fabricated evidence. Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite and Emma Thompson star:
THE QUIET MAN (1952)
One of the most sentimental collaborations between director John Ford and actor John Wayne is this tale of an Irish-American immigrant heading back to Ireland to his family farm. Wayne, playing former boxer Sean Thornton, falls in love with Maureen O'Hara along the way in what The A.V. Club says is what should have been been the Best Picture in 1952, "shot partly on location in Ireland and designed in the lushest greens ever squeezed out of Technicolor."
LEAP YEAR (2010)
Have I got an elevator pitch for you: a lady who is desperate to get married to her boyfriend follows him to Dublin to propose to him on Leap Day (because it's supposedly the only day of the year women can propose, like the Sadie Hawkins of engagements), but then wacky antics ensue and then there's this hunky and annoying Irish guy who runs the inn where she stays... It features Amy Adams, Adam Scott and Matthew Goode, who said in an interview, "I just know that there are a lot of people who will say it is the worst film of 2010."
The Indefatigable Irish Spirit
WAKING NED DEVINE (1998)
A light-hearted comedy that involves a small village's decision to come together to claim a big lottery prize once it's discovered that the winner, Ned Devine, is dead. And, what's more, Entertainment Weekly noted that the "supporting cast... briskly go about the business of playing a stinky pig farmer, a lovelorn single mother, a hapless lottery official, even the village spoilsport, without ever succumbing to that widespread movie affliction Irish Twinkle."
MY LEFT FOOT (1989)
The triumph of Irish poet and artist Christy Brown, whose cerebral palsy only left him able to control his left foot, is the subject of this tearjerker from director Jim Sheridan. While Daniel-Day Lewis won an Oscar for portraying Brown, Hugh O'Connor, who played the young Christy, is also incredible:
THE MAGDALENE SISTERS (2002)
Between 1922 and 1996, 10,000 young women were sent to Catholic workhouses, the Magdalene Asylums, for various minor or subjectives offenses including being deemed "fallen" by their families, and were imprisoned and often exploited. Writer-director Peter Mullan created a narrative about four women in 1964, under the rule of cruel and corrupt nuns and clergy and how they try to endure. The Guardian said, "This is tough, angry, muscular film-making—it has a kind of 120-degree proof passion which makes most other Irish and British cinema look tame and lame."
Musicians In Dublin
THE COMMITMENTS (1991)
Based on a book by Roddy Doyle, director Alan Parker's tale of a ragtag group of Dubliners who join to form a soul band is just a fun movie with an awesome soundtrack. As the group's leader famously said, "The Irish are the blacks of Europe, Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland, and the North Siders are the blacks of Dublin... so say it loud—I'm black and I'm proud!"
One of the supporting characters from The Commitments is the lead in John Crowley's Once: Glen Hansard is a busker in Dublin pining after his girlfriend, who has moved to London, and he meets an immigrant cleaning lady, played by Marketa Irglova, who is a talented pianist. The movie tracks a week where they make music and get to know each other:
The Immigrant Experience, NYC-Trifecta
Adapted by Nick Hornby from Colm Tóibín's novel, Saoirse Ronan portrays a village shopgirl who comes to Brooklyn for a better life—but winds up back in Ireland to face family issues. The L.A Times called the John Crowley-directed film a "crowd-pleaser with unexpected depth, using one woman's dilemma to illustrate the daunting freedom of choice."
IN AMERICA (2002)
New York City is also the location of Jim Sheridan's semi-autobiographical film (he co-wrote it with his daughters Naomi and Kristen) struggles of a young Irish family in gritty 1980s New York City. Paddy Considine, Samantha Morton and Djimon Honsou star as world-weary adults and Sarah and Emma Bolger, who play sisters, are charming. The NY Times' A.O. Scott wrote, "This movie, from moment to moment, feels small, almost anecdotal. It is only afterward that, like Mr. Sheridan's other films, it starts to grow into something at once unassuming and in its own way grand. "
GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002)
With today's talk of natives vs. immigrants, Martin Scorsese's depiction of Herbert Asbury's book about the unrest between Irish immigrants and "nativists" in 19th century NYC is as timely as ever. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Liam Neeson, Cameron Diaz and a scenery-chewing Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York is "huge, brash, chaotic and thrillingly exuberant" as the Guardian said.
The Mystical Experience
THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH (1994)
Selkies, the mythical creature that looks like a seal but is human on land, are a popular legend, and one of the most beautiful films about them is this John Sayles movie, based on Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry by Rosalie K. Fry. A little girl is sent to visit her grandparents, and she soon learns that an ancestor married a selkie—and that her baby brother washed out to sea and is, the story has it, being raised by seals. While this trailer looks terrible, there is gorgeous cinematography from Haskell Wexler:
THE SECRET OF THE KELLS (2009)
Middle Ages Ireland, shapeshifting she-wolves and the treasured Book of the Kells are at the heart of this lavishly animated tale, which the Wall Street Journal said paid "homage to Celtic culture and design, together with techniques and motifs that evoke Matisse, Miyazaki and the minimalist cartoons of UPA."