Saturday, May 14, 2016
2016 Cannes Marathon: Jimmy's Hall
(Played in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival)
Directed by Ken Loach and screenplay by Paul Laverty that is based on Donal O‘Kelly‘s play, Jimmy’s Hall is the story about the Irish socialist Jimmy Graton who holds a dancehall for people who support his cause that would eventually led to his deportation to the U.S. in 1933. The film is a dramatic account about Graton’s life in the 1930s from his formation of the Revolutionary Workers’ Group as well as his fights with the Irish government as he is played by Barry Walton. Also starring Simone Kirby and Jim Norton. Jimmy’s Hall is a riveting and compelling film from Ken Loach.
Set in 1932 Ireland during the worldwide Great Depression, the film revolves around the year in the life of Jimmy Gralton who had return to Ireland after a decade in exile where he is asked by old friends and other young local to reopen a community hall much to the ire of old enemies that include land owners, religious leaders, and other political figures. It’s a film that plays into a man who was known for his radical views of the world where he is seen as a Communist yet he is really a man of the people that wants to do what is right while offering the town’s elder priest a chance to discuss things peacefully. Instead, there are forces that want to get rid of Gralton in order to maintain the status quo while the people realize that there is a lot more at stake than just themselves and their home.
Paul Laverty’s screenplay doesn’t just explore Gralton’s desire to reopen this community hall where people can dance to music, have meetings, and learn about everything from art, dance, and anything they want to know about. It’s about why he built in the first place 10 years earlier and the events that led to his first exile where he would go to America for nearly a decade where he saw the stock market crash of 1929 and its outcome. He is reluctant to stir trouble as he just wants to help his mother in running their local farm but he couldn’t ignore the problems that are emerging in Ireland as it relates to the poor and uneducated not getting a fair shake. Even as the people who are supposed to help them in local bishops condemn them instead of doing what is right. Still, Gralton just wants to stay out of trouble just as he reconnects with a former flame, who is now married with children, where he eventually realizes that his attempts to speak about against the government would lead him to a permanent exile.
Ken Loach’s direction is quite simple but also engaging for the way he creates a film that is political but also not overtly political. Shot on the actual locations where the story was based in the county of Leitrim in Ireland, the film does play into something that is almost like a recreation with a few flashback scenes of Gralton’s life when he built the hall. Much of the direction is intimate in its usage of close-ups and medium shots to play into the meetings as well as some of the things that goes on inside this hall where people listen to traditional Irish music as well as the American jazz that Gralton has brought to the country. There aren’t many moments of violence though the scenes that do display violent moments such as a young woman being beaten by her father who loathes Gralton. There are also these intense moments as it relates to the confrontation as well as the actions of Gralton and his associates where the film’s third act would play into Gralton’s own exile and eventual deportation. Through Laverty’s simplistic script, Loach would let many things play out easily and not really bring in a lot of exposition except for a few moments as it relates to a lot of the historical context of what Ireland was going through during the Depression. Even as the eventual deportation of Gralton would showcase a lot of what is going on that even those trying to get rid of Gralton couldn’t ignore. Overall, Loach crafts a provocative yet fascinating film about a man trying to create a peaceful environment during one of Ireland’s toughest periods in time.
Cinematographer Robbie Ryan does brilliant work with the film‘s colorful cinematography in capturing many of the naturalistic landscapes in a lot of the film‘s daytime exterior scenes along with some stylish usage of blue light filters for a key scene set at night. Editor Mike Andrews does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward as it doesn‘t go for a lot of style with the exception of a few transitions for the flashbacks in its first act. Production designer Fergus Clegg and art director Stephen Daly do fantastic work with the look of the hall that is big enough to be a lot of things while it would also have dances and concerts set at night to play into something that feels like a lively community as opposed to the look of these large and cold estates of the landowners.
Costume designer Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh does wonderful work with the costumes as it plays to the look of the early 1930s as it is casual but also colorful including a dress that Gralton bought for his former flame Oonagh. Sound editor Kevin Brazier does nice work with the sound as it is play into some of the lively atmosphere in the parties at the hall as well as some of the quieter moments involving the landscape. The film’s music by George Fenton and Fletcher Henderson is incredible for its mixture of jazz and traditional Irish folk music to play into that mixture of two different worlds that is American jazz and Irish music as something that would give many of the locals at the hall something new to enjoy.
The casting by Kahleen Crawford is superb for the ensemble that is created as it include some notable small roles from Aileen Henry as Gralton’s mother, Andrew Scott as the sympathetic and more progressive Father Sheamus, Karl Geary and Shane O’Brien as a couple of Gralton’s friends who try to fight for him, Denise Gough as a teacher at the hall, Aisling Franciosi as a young woman named Marie O’Keefe who goes to the hall against her father’s wishes, Brian F. O’Byrne as Commander O’Keefe who despises Gralton as he tries to stop him by any means necessary, and Francis Magee as Gralton’s old friend Mossie who helped build the hall with Gralton as he was just released from prison upon Gralton’s return to Ireland. Jim Norton is excellent as Father Sheridan as a religious leader who was once a major opponent of Gralton as he is not happy about his return where he tries to stop him only to be faced with questions about his own role and whether he really does help the people.
Simone Kirby is amazing as Oonagh as a former lover of Gralton who had since remarried since his exile as she reconnects with him without being unfaithful only to realize the dangers of her association with him. Finally, there’s Barry Walton in a phenomenal performance as Jimmy Gralton as a former organizer who is reluctantly back in a war of words against the authority where he tries to create peaceful discussions while calling out those such as Father Sheridan for his indifference towards people he is supposed to care for as it’s a performance of humility and charisma.
Jimmy’s Hall is an incredible film from Ken Loach that features a sensational performance from Barry Walton. Featuring a great cast as well as fascinating viewpoints on some of Ireland’s own conflicts during the Great Depression. It’s a film that showcases a man just trying to say something for common people in an age where everyone is suffering while the rich and powerful show indifference towards them. In the end, Jimmy’s Hall is a tremendous film from Ken Loach.
Ken Loach Films: (Cathy Comes Home) - (Poor Cow) - Kes - (Save the Children Fund Film) - (Family Life) - (The Price of Coal) - (Black Jack) - (The Gamekeeper) - (Looks and Smiles) - (Which Side Are You On?) - (Fatherland) - (Hidden Agenda) - (Riff-Raff) - (Raining Stones) - (Ladybird Ladybird) - (Land and Freedom) - (A Contemporary Case of Common Ownership) - (Carla’s Song) - (The Flickering Flame) - (McLibel (1997 film)) - (My Name is Joe) - (Bread and Roses) - (The Navigators) - Sweet Sixteen - (Ae Fond Kiss…) - (Tickets) - (McLibel (2005 film)) - The Wind That Shakes the Barley - It's a Free World... - Looking for Eric - (Route Irish) - (The Angels’ Share) - (The Spirit of ‘45) - I, Daniel Blake
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