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Page Two: Irish-Themed Movies


Michael Collins (1996)
Liam Neeson stars as the title character in this biopic about the Irish folk hero who led the fight against British rule some 80 years ago. Initially Collins' role in the IRA was as "minister for Gun Running, Daylight Robbery, and Bloody Mayhem," but he eventually wearied of the bloodshed and negotiated a settlement. The compromise resulted in the establishment of the Irish Free State, but left Northern Ireland under the British. The film's interpretation of Irish history is intriguing, and I was impressed that the movie doesn't shy away from presenting controversies that still resonate today.

My Left Foot (1989)
Daniel Day-Lewis won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal in this biopic of Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy into a poor but loving Irish family. Although the only movement Brown could control was in his left foot, he nevertheless developed into an acclaimed painter and writer. However, Brown apparently wasn’t a likable man, and the movie depicts him as an ill-tempered, manipulative, foul-mouthed boozer. But the film contains just the right touches of warmth and humor, and for me these transform watching this rather painful story into a very moving experience.

The Quiet Man (1952)
John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara star in this delightful romantic comedy that was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Wayne portrays a retired American boxer who comes to Ireland, where he sees a beautiful young woman barefoot, tending sheep in a pasture. Thus begins a tempestuous courtship--a sort of an Irish Taming of the Shrew. My favorite scene is where a local resident enters the cottage where the couple have just spent their wedding night. He walks through the smashed bedroom door and finds the bed broken, whereupon he exclaims, "Impetuous! Homeric!"

The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)
Fiona is a ten-year-old girl who has been sent to live with her grandparents on the west coast of Ireland. There she hears the curious legend that one of her ancestors married a selkie, a creature that is part woman, part seal. Then Fiona thinks she sees what might be her younger brother, who disappeared years earlier, in a cradle being carried through the water by seals. The story unfolds from there as the girl grapples with these mysteries. This is a magical fable that is photographed with stunning beauty, and it’s one of the few films I know of that really can be enjoyed by the whole family.

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