Jimmy’s Hall (2014) Dir. Ken Loach – QFT Belfast 4th-13th June
Who’s in it? Barry Ward, Simone Kirby, Andrew Scott
What’s it about? Politically minded Palme d’Or winning British director Ken Loach (The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Kes) offers another rousing social commentary on rural Ireland in the 1920s. It’s the emotionally charged, fact based story of a Leitrim man’s revolutionary impulse and the ripples he made in his local community. The film follows the fortunes of local dancer Jimmy Gralton (Ward) and his efforts to run a cross community dance hall to help people “understand each other as best we can”, enabling them to bring out the best in each other and have a laugh doing it. Loach casts the Catholic Church as the typical villains of the piece (the parish priest portrayed decrying those at the hall as “atheists”) as the local authorities look to keep a lid on the stirrings of rebellion during a turbulent period of recent Irish history.
Memorable Moments? In one scene Jimmy steals a carefree moonlit waltz in the hall with his activist girlfriend (Kirby), continuing the theme of a new generation asserting its independence. Although the political context is uncompromising, Loach seems to handle the spirited narrative with a lightness of touch that avoids the heaviness of his earlier work on similar ground.
Look Who’s talking: ‘All told, it’s perhaps best seen as a celebration of a man who stands up for his beliefs – almost like a testament to Loach himself.’ – Total Film
Like that? Try this: The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006), Loach’s critically acclaimed look at the Irish Civil War, full of Indy grit and less palatable than Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins (1996), though it may pull fewer punches politically.
Trivia Pursuit: The hall of the title refers to the Leitrim barn Gralton used as a centre to bring people together under the same roof.