Given that Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast is currently tipped for Oscar glory (fingers crossed for Ciaran Hinds!) I thought I’d share my Top Five Irish Movies for this week’s Reading Ireland Month prompt.
Bad Day for the Cut
Bad Day for the Cut is a blinder of a revenge thriller set on a farm in Northern Ireland. It follows a mild-mannered farmer who sets out to seek revenge after the brutal murder of his elderly mother. What he finds is a world of violence and brutality that he can’t understand and a secret about his family that will shake him to his core. Bad Day for the Cut manages to be darkly funny, emotionally satisfying and a sharp, twisty thriller to boot and features a scene-stealing turn from the brilliant Susan Lynch.
The Dead is a real family affair, directed by the legendary John Huston, adapted by his son Tony (from the James Joyce short story) and starring his daughter Angelica. It is almost a real-time transcription of Joyce’s slice-of-life tale about an upper-middle class couple, Gretta and Gabriel Conroy (Anjelica Huston and Donal McCann) attending a fancy musical evening among the leisured professional classes of Edwardian Dublin. Over the course of the evening, Gabriel and Gretta come to realise that their marriage is haunted by a presence from the past. The Dead is old-fashioned, almost like a filmed play, but the two stunning central performances and the emotional charge of Joyce’s story come together to create a masterpiece.
The Crying Game
I went to the Belfast premiere of The Crying Game at the Belfast Arts Festival in 1992, which was introduced by Stephen Rea and Neil Jordan. No one in the audience knew anything about the film and by the end we were all sitting in stunned awe. I watched The Crying Game again recently and it is still a really powerful story of the unlikely friendship between a British soldier and a member of the IRA gang who has kidnapped him. Subtly exploring issues of race, gender and politics at a time when Hollywood was still resistant to such themes, Jordan’s film is about so much more than it’s famous ‘twist’. Jordan won an Oscar for the screenplay and Jaye Davidson became the first British person of colour to be nominated for an Oscar.
You can read a fascinating interview with Neil Jordan and Stephen Rea on the 25th anniversary of The Crying Game here.
When The Commitments was being filmed in Dublin in 1990, everyone I knew was auditioning for a part so by the time it was released in 1991, the buzz in the city was hard to avoid. Based on Roddy Doyle’s novel of the same name and directed by Alan Parker, The Commitments tells the story of Jimmy Rabitte, an unemployed Dublin boy who decides to put together a soul band in the fictitious ‘Barrytown’. Featuring a cast of relative unknowns who were cast for their musical ability, The Commitments is a riotous, joyous comedy about following your dreams and is the cinematic definition of ‘feel-good’.
When my husband and I went to see In Bruges we were sharing the cinema with two old ladies, who only lasted thirty minutes due to the constant, hilarious, colourful swearing. Martin McDonagh has gone on to Oscar-winning heights since this debut which follows two hapless hit men who are waiting in Bruges (‘it’s like a fucking fairytale’) for further instructions from their bosses after a hit has gone badly wrong.
Featuring fantastic performances from Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell and an unforgettable turn from Ralph Fiennes, In Bruges is darkly funny, heartbreakingly moving and eminently quotable. ‘Alcoves, you have this word?’, ‘it’s only Jesus’ blood’, and ‘you hit the Canadian’ are all regularly used in my house…
If I think about this list for any longer, I’ll probably change my mind and add five more! Have you seen any of my choices? Let me know what your favourite Irish movie is in the comments below.
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!