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kenmorefield

In the Name of the Father (1993)

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Earlier this summer, I went to Ireland to attend an academic conference, and I managed to do some sightseeing on the way. Belfast was a highlight of the trip, so I wondered what it would be like to rewatch this film for the first time in many years. (Standard "we really don't have a thread about this film yet?" disclaimer.)

I was surprised, but not terribly shocked, to find that I had trouble being engaged with the film. I remember esteeming it highly, and I can't exactly put my finger on what I didn't like as much. I think it was the script, but I see Terry George also did Hotel Rwanda and The Boxer. It's possible that Steve McQueen's Hunger cast a shadow over the film, particularly in the ways that it represents the brutality of the incarcerations. 

Perhaps, too, the film feels strangely disconnected from the historical setting. We get that Conlon is falsely imprisoned but even at the end, there doesn't seem to be any care to address the "why?" The Brits are evil and they hate the Irish. Throw in the fact that the domestic relationship is more interesting than the political story and the film ends up with a much more generic feeling than it probably should. (I'm not suggesting, by the way, that I'm pro-British in regards to "The Troubles," just that film seems strangely uninterested in exploring the broader political context.)

As an actor's showcase it fares better. Postlethwaite and Thompson are terrific and Day-Lewis is better than I remembered. (I tend to judge acting by delivery choices that avoid cliche or obvious inflections. In a situation such as this one, the danger is emoting too much and thus having a monotone of indignation and anger that doesn't land as well because there is no undulation. Postlethwaite's lack of anger in the first jail scene is a good example, as is Thompson's office scene with the political guy where she asks for compassionate leave for Giuseppe.) Day-Lewis has to have a loooong arc in a short time, transforming Gerry from someone who is frankly unlikable to someone to whom you are sympathetic towards. He does so, but only just. My sympathies were more generic -- he was the victim of a horrible wrong, than they were a response to his transformation. 

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