Tag Archives: Ireland

Book Review: Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe

patrickmccabe_breakfastonpluto

Rating: B+/ Call me crazy, but I count Patrick McCabe’s 1992 novel The Butcher Boy among my favorite and most influential books of all time. Sure, it’s Bleak with a capital B, but it turned me on to my current fascination with books featuring unreliable narrators. It was made into a 1997 movie by Neil Jordan, and while it was surprisingly good with a convincing performance by Eamonn Owens as the book’s mentally disturbed narrator, Francie, some of the book’s brilliance was lost in translation. Continue reading Book Review: Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe

Book Review: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

paddy-clarke-ha-ha-ha

Rating: B/ There isn’t much funny about Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, it’s a somewhat bleak and depressing book narrated by a ten-year-old unsupervised hell raiser who runs with a group of kids who are more Lord of the Flies than Our Gang. The lack of plot or traditional structure offered in this novel can be initially jarring and frustrating, but Paddy Clarke’s idiosyncratic, often tangential voice rings true and there is a real artistry hidden behind the seemingly random and directionless prose. Continue reading Book Review: Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle

Movie Review: Glassland (2014)

glassland-poster

Rating: A/ From the title I thought this movie was about methamphetamine, since ‘glass’ is a synonym for crystal meth. It turned out to be about a young man’s mother with a pretty serious alcohol problem. In fact, Jean (Toni Collette) has hit the bottle so hard that she’s slowly killing herself, and her ever-faithful son John (Jack Reynor) both tirelessly cares for her and enables her. Continue reading Movie Review: Glassland (2014)

Movie Review: Sing Street (2016)

sing-street-poster

Rating: A-/ Fifteen-year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is in a bit of a bind. His squabbling parents (Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy) are officially broke and have decided to transfer him from his posh private school to a tough inner city Dublin school, which it soon becomes clear is a complete hellhole where the students go totally fucking Lord of the Flies and the teachers sit back and  do nothing. Bullied on his first day by the virulent Barry (Ian Kenny,) Conor finds a release by starting a band with some classmates to impress an aspiring model (Lucy Boynton) one year his senior, despite not knowing the first thing about music. Continue reading Movie Review: Sing Street (2016)

Movie Review: Brooklyn (2015)

Rating: B/  This is the kind of movie you sort of have to be in the mood for; a slow-paced, low-key period piece with a vivid sense of time and place. The love story at the center of the film is endearing if nothing spectacular, but the excellent acting and instantly empathizeable heroine make it an enjoyable experience. It’s like a slice of life from days long since past. Continue reading Movie Review: Brooklyn (2015)

Movie Review: Waking Ned Devine (1998)

wakingneddevine

Rating: C+/ Although not entirely without it’s merits, Waking Ned Devine is a mostly silly and unsubstantial Irish comedy with few real laughs. It doesn’t help that the main character, Jackie O’Shea (Ian Bannen,) is startlingly unlikable. The lightness and fluffiness of the movie juxtaposes poorly with Jackie’s all-encompassing selfishness and nastiness, redeemed (?) at the end by a dime-store revelation that doesn’t seem very genuine. Continue reading Movie Review: Waking Ned Devine (1998)

’71 (2014)

71movie

Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is having a bad day. A  British soldier stranded in Belfast as the Troubles reach their zenith, he is inexperienced in the ways of war and has no idea who to turn to and as night falls, his fear turns to utter panic. The Irish are out to kill him, and, as it turns out, the British have a bone to pick with him too when he witnesses something in a Protestant bar he shouldn’t have.

Determined to go back home to his little brother Darren (Harry Verity,)  Gary must be willing to power through a night in hell and even kill for the first time if he is to survive. But Gary finds some unexpected friends in Bridgid (Charlie Murphy) and Eamonn (Richard Dormer,) and Irish ex-military medic disgusted by the senselessness of war and his daughter.

There is scarcely a dull moment in ’71, an intense and realistic wartime drama that chronicles Gary’s frenzied  attempts to simply survive the night.  The film captures a atmosphere of chaos and ongoing panic like nothing else I’ve seen, creating a world where the foggy motives of both  Irish Catholics and British Protestants seem to meld together into one incomprehensible mass.

’71 is fair to both political sides of a messy, tragic conflict, and although I didn’t like Jack O’Connell in the 2008 horror-thriller Eden Lake, I thought he was excellent here. Far from being an action hero, Gary is green as can be. His inexperience mirrors that of another character, a teenage Irish Republican terrorist named Shaun (Barry Keoghan) who pauses helping his younger sister with her homework long enough to grab his hidden assault weapons and heads out, evading his mother’s watchful gaze.

The movie asks the question; what makes us so different that we have to continue hurting and killing each other in bloody, senseless wars? We are taught in times of conflict by the omnipresent propaganda machine that our adversaries are different from us, vile, unrelenting in the savagery.  At one point, Eamonn, Gary Hook’s good Samaritan, says that war is nothing more than ‘posh cunts telling thick cunts to kill poor cunts.’ For me, this was the high point of the movie. Has war ever been more aptly described in a more concise mannersince the first person who spoke the famous adage, “War is Hell?”

What makes us so damn different? We want the same things; financial security, our family’s unconditional love and acceptance. We feel the need to matter. And even if there are those few human beings that are irredeemably, utterly evil, why should political doctrine choose our enemies? People who, in other circumstances, could even be our friends. Had it not been for the long-standing hatred between the Northern Irish and the British Militia, Sean and Gary probably could have sat and had a drink together and bore no animosity for each other.

The only complaint I have about this movie was that it was quite confusing, I was puzzled as to who many of the side characters were and what they wanted with Gary. There was at least two similar looking characters  on different  political sides with rather large mustaches, and I’ll be damned if I could tell Mustachio #1 and Mustachio #2 apart on a dark set when all hell was breaking loose.

Besides that, all I can say is I recommend this movie to people who are interested in war films and historical periods, particularly the Troubles. It is realistic, humane, and fair-minded, and while it is not for the particularly sensitive, it would be great to show to mature high school students to explain to them how things went down in Northern Ireland at that time. Finally, we are left with the question of Gary; will he escape? And if he does will he ever be the same?

71