Jimmy’s Hall: Review

Image from: http://www.cineart.be

Purportedly Ken Loach’s final film (though he may still dabble in television), Jimmy’s Hall isn’t so much going out with a bang, but more like a director simply making the film they want to.

Set in communist-fearing 1930’s Ireland, it’s based on the true story of Jimmy Gralton, who returns to his home village as a result of a ten year exile in New York.

Determined to re-establish a dance hall which would also act as a sanctuary and place of learning for the working class, the plan comes under scrutiny from the Church and upper class who think there’s something more sinister at hand.

As things begin to escalate, lines are drawn and Jimmy finds himself facing deportation from his country for his “communist” beliefs.

An important film maker with a unique understanding and love of the working class, Loach marks his final bow with a love letter to them.

The film’s main criticism of being too simplistic is actually one of the things I enjoyed most about this, and I did really enjoy it. There’s a documentary-style realism to the film that I loved, and Loach seems to just let the story tell itself with minimal involvement.

In almost every scene there’s a real, natural exchange between actors, who cut over each other as if they were in an early Spielberg film, and this brings a great kinetic energy to each scene.

Completely engrossed in the film, I believed what I was seeing on-screen to be real. So much so that when there are moments of escalation through aggression, it feels more resonant than in most films, and quite shocking.

As well as this, the actual story which deals with the divide between classes, oppression and religion is still very relevant now. One scene in particular which has Jimmy rallying a group of villagers to re-claim their country from the landlords and politicians feels like its meant to talk straight to our generation.

The performances are great, Barry Ward proving a very charismatic lead and Jim Norton (Bishop Brennan from Father Ted basically playing Bishop Brennan from Father Ted) plays the adversarial role with great depth.

A folk tale of sorts, Jimmy’s Hall is neither ground breaking nor should it have to be. It’s straight-to-the-point film making which looks great. Despite being very linear and basic on the plot front, it boasts some memorable scenes, including a moment where two of our leads dance to the sound of creaking floor boards, one of the rawest and most beautiful scenes I’ve seen all year.

Certain to be lost amongst the myriad of summer films, you should seek this out if you fancy a bit of a change. It’s interesting, funny, heartbreaking and charming. If it is indeed Loach’s final film then what a film to go out on.

 

 

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