Ken Loach and regular screenwriter Paul Laverty climb on to their soapbox to rail against the “masters and the pastors” with Jimmy's Hall, a period drama inspired by the story of the left-wing activist who become the only Irishman to be deported from his homeland.
Returning to his home village in County Leitrim in 1932 after 10 years of exile in America, Jimmy Gralton reopens its boarded up community hall, giving the downtrodden locals a place for art and poetry classes, dancing and discussing Marx but setting him on a collision course with the killjoy clergy and oppressive landowners.
Barry Ward’s handsome, charismatic hero is a romanticised figure (in reality Gralton was middle-aged and balding), which wouldn’t matter if his character had been given more depth and shade. As it is, the most interesting character is Jim Norton’s flinty parish priest, who grudgingly comes to respect Gralton’s principled pluck while remaining his inflexible ideological foe. Even so, Jimmy's Hall is too one-sided and lacks dramatic bite.
At the time of the film's release in 2014, Loach announced that it was to be his final feature. Happily, he changed his mind. His new film I, Daniel Blake, winner of the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, comes out in October.
Certificate 12. Runtime 105 mins. Director Ken Loach
Jimmy's Hall is showing on Film4 this evening at 11.25pm.
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A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.