Jimmy Gralton returned to his native Ireland in 1932 when a new Government led by Eammon de Valera took office and at last promised peace after ‘the troubles’. Gralton’s eldest brother had recently died and his elderly mother was left trying to scrape a living off the poor infertile land on the Farm that the local Lord of the Manor leased to them. The whole area in this beautiful corner of Ireland had been decimated by war and was depressed by the sheer poverty of the region which seemed inescapable.
Next to Jimmy’s family cottage was a rundown old small outhouse on his land that had once served as a Community Centre for the village. The moment that he returned everyone started to implore him to let them help restore the place and bring some small joy to the area again. Everyone that is except the local Catholic Priest who immediately renounced both the plan, and the people executing it, as pure evil and agents of the Devil. Nothing went on in ‘his Parish’ without his permission he claimed, and when it came to the matter of classes the Centre would offer he literally blew a fit as he shouted ‘education is the sole domain of the Holy Mother Church.’
The villagers finished the Hall and they all attended the opening Dance even though the Priest stood outside with his notebook and wrote down all the names which he then called out and denounced from the Pulpit the next day. But still the children attended singing and dancing classes, and the adults took part in book clubs and all sort of discussions so much so, that the Hall became the centre of the Village. When a Tenant farmer got evicted, his pals from the IRA took him to the Hall to ask Jimmy and the others for his support. They did so without the backing of their own IRA Commanders who, in those days, were thick as thieves with the Church as each of them were propping the other’s grasp of power.
Jimmy’s support, backed by the villagers, of the evicted tenant created more anger and pressure from the Priest and whilst some people caved in (he threatened to get them fired or boycott their wee businesses) Jimmy never did. He paid dearly though as one night the Hall was burned down completely. Despite the fact that all those in Authority hated what he stood for and his sheer popularity, he was not doing anything that they could charge him with in Court of Law, so the powers-that-be in Dublin were urged to act on a technicality. Jimmy Gralton also owned an American Passport so when they eventually caught him after he went into hiding they deported him without a Trial …. the first, and last Irishman to have been evicted from his own birth country.
This rather enchanting tale of a man who could do a mean Bessie Smith impression when he showed his Irish neighbors how he had learned to ‘shimmy’ in New York, is based on a very real story. It’s Ken Loach’s latest (and probably his last ever) movie on his take on some parts of Irish history and his most gentlest so far. He and his usual scriptwriting partner Paul Laverty make no effort to dilute their own distaste on how the landed Gentry (mainly English), the IRA and the Church all conspired to keep the working class downtrodden and in their sorry places. They balanced that with their portrayal of Gralton and his neighbors as unselfish and generous men with very simple ambitions and such a strong sense of love for their country, as opposed to simply what they could plunder from it.
Loach’s leading man Barry Ward a handsome Irish actor known mainly for his work on television and stage was a very impressive Gralton that everyone in the Village seemed to fall in love with (save the Priest and his cronies). Especially Oonagh played by another Irish stage actor Simone Kirby. In fact Loach ( an Englishman) has used a mainly Irish cast and not necessarily local ones as it includes the Tony Award winning American/Irish Brían F. O’Byrne.
The words that resounded most in this great re-telling of a disturbing time in Ireland’s history belong to Gralton when he faces the angry Priest for one final times and says ‘There is so much hate in your heart, there cannot possibly any room left for any love at all.’
Posted by queerguru at 01:51
Labels: 2014, Cannes, dramatized reallife, Irish