Finally a good movie when it’s the blockbusters season!
A new Ken Loach movie is always an event. His numerous fans eagerly await his new film, often for its poetic, always protesting and sometimes violent social class struggle stories.
Here, you’ll find the themes dear to Loach but with more grace and less passion so his hardcore fans might be disappointed. Especially since the rumor has it that it might be his last movie.
This is the story of Jimmy Gralton returning to his native Ireland to help his mother running her farm ten years after his departure for the USA at the time of the Irish Civil War. Now a new government is in power. Jimmy initially refuses to reopen an old Dance Hall he owns because he wants to avoid any trouble with his former enemies (especially the Church and the landowners) but eventually does at the request of some young people from the County. The “Hall” welcomes free of charge all of those who wish to dance, study and debate. Neighbors mobilized to restore the site and the place quickly revives with success. However, the growing influence of Jimmy and his progressive and communist ideas are not to everyone’s taste including Father Sheridan and extremists of the IRA.
What is interesting about this film is when it seems really simple on the outside, there is actually a really interesting directing full of poetry and grace while the film mainly deals with a conflict.
For example, there is a real work on lights; blue beams crossing the dance hall, centerpiece of the film in order to illustrate the love of his character for his the dance hall itself or for Oonagh.
This is also true for the calibration meaning the coloring of the image; sometimes yellow and warm for the dance parties in the famous “hall” or bluish in intimate scenes with Oonagh or cold and whitish in dramatic scenes.
Beyond the technical aspects, Ken Loach also knew how to benefit from the green Irish landscapes of Ireland that seriouslymake you want to go there.
Considering editing now, Ken Loach likes to cut a joyful scene with a dramatic or pessimistic one, especially with the intervention of the priest Sheridan which can be sometimes surprising or amusing. This is where you can acknowledge Ken Loach’s talent and the humorous perspective he has on his characters.
Speaking of them, they are colorful, warm, and they remain in a certain archetype: the hero, the unapproachable woman, the “villain” but always with a touch of self-deprecating humor and originality that make them more “human.
The cast is great. Barry Ward first, so classy and charismatic (Jimmy Gralton), Simone Kirby (Oonagh) and Jim Norton (Priest Sheridan) are perfect in their respective parts. You also notice the actress who plays Jimmy’s mother.
The film features Irish culture; music (and American jazz), a cappella singing, Gaelic language, Yeats writings which gives soul to the film. You just want to keep watching/ follow the lives of these people and be part of their group.
Finally, it is a humanist film, a “feel good movie” even if it retraces the life of the only Irish who had been deported from his country without any trial. The film avoids “nice factory workers” versus “the wicked clergy member” clichés but focuses on the humanistic values defended by the members of Jimmy’s hall: to learn, dance, sing and play, in brief, live. As rightly said by Jimmy to father Sheridan: life is hard enough why deprive these people of something that is good for everyone?
It’s interesting how a dancehall can represent the history of all Ireland in the context of the 1930s, that is to say 10 years after the civil war. And it is frightening to see that for something as “harmless” as a dancehall, someone can end being deported from his own country and without trial!
The vey symbolic last image of the film also proves that Ken Loach has not dropped weapons, he just has more love than hate in his filmmaker heart…
July 10, 2014