Jimmy’s Hall (2014)

Jimmys HallTen years after Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) left Ireland to start a new life in the US he returned home to help his elderly mother (Eileen Henry) on the family farm. Not everyone is happy to see him, however, and old rivalries reassert themselves when he reopens his old music hall to serve the residents of the village. While the church and local government conspire to close it down once and for all, afraid that it might threaten their theological and political hold on the townsfolk, Jimmy reconnects with his childhood sweetheart Oonagh (Simone Kirby), who is now married with children.

The film opens with archive footage of 1930s New York, intercut with a short introductory slideshow for audience members perhaps unfamiliar with the historical context of Southern Ireland (though for all its talk of Communism, Catholicism and Los Angelesisation the story is surprisingly simplistic and unspecific — this isn’t really a film about Ireland at all). We then cut to County Leitrim, where Jimmy is arriving by horse and cart. What follows is a lengthy, languorous introduction to the characters and country life, filling us in on the hall’s troubled past and setting up the various conflicts which the narrative will eventually address. It’s all pretty nuts and bolts stuff, then, with precious little in the way of style or substance.

Jimmy’s hall isn’t much to look at, but we’re told that it means a great deal to the community; after all, thanks to those four walls the local youth no longer have to dance in the street. It’s location is controversial, for reasons that it’s not really worth getting into, and the structure’s future is in question, thanks to Jim Norton’s puritanical Father Sheridan. Not exactly high stakes stuff, is it? The low rumble of Godzilla laying waste to San Francisco or Wolverine battling Sentinels in the neighbouring screens will likely be more than enough to draw your attention away from the latest peaceful protest outside the gates of the town hall. There is only so much time you can willingly spend watching a man watching other people dance.

Admittedly, being boring is Jimmy’s Hall‘s only real crime, for it’s otherwise reasonably well directed, nicely shot and sensitively acted. Ward is competent enough in the leading role, and it’s easy to sympathise with his struggles against local conservatism and corruption. It’s the supporting cast who really shine, however, begging the question of why Jimmy was singled out as the lead. It’s their hall as much as his, and either Kirby or Aisling Francoisi (as a young girl beaten for her secular beliefs) would have made far more compelling focal point for the movie. Arguably the film’s most interesting relationship is that between Father Sheridan and Andrew Scott’s Father Seamus, who are united in faith but divided by generation. Sadly, their difference of opinion goes largely unexplored.

Jimmy’s Hall is based on a play which is itself based on true events — Jimmy Gralton is to this day the only Irish national to have ever been deported from Ireland. As far as historical footnotes go it’s reasonably diverting, but not even Ken Loach can turn it into a dramatic and dynamic feature film. Maybe there are some stories which can safely stay untold.



About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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