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Jimmy’s Hall

June 3, 2015

Jimmy’s Hall (2014)
Director: Ken Loach
Actors: Barry Ward, Simone Kirby, Jim Norton

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Synopsis: Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) returns to Ireland in the 1930s after many years of exile in New York. Initially intent on keeping a low profile, Jimmy is convinced by the local population to revive his community hall project – the cause of his exile in the first place. As was the case a decade before, the Church and various political factions are upset by the joyous, libertarian vibes coming from Jimmy’s hall, leading to evermore divisiveness in the community…

Review: Jettisoning the lashings of whimsy that threatened to overwhelm his recent efforts Looking for Eric and The Angel’s Share, Ken Loach has fashioned one of his purest and most lovely films here in Jimmy’s Hall – a fitting end-point if this is to be his last directorial feature. It’s hard not to find the on-screen struggles of Jimmy to uphold the working-class, co-operative-minded ethos of his community initiative as microcosm of Loach’s own indefatigability over the years in continuing to churn out his liberal, social-minded film projects.

Jimmy’s Hall is also unequivocal validation for Loach’s cine-theatrical practices. The authentic, unvarnished ethos to casting and acting finds real moving currency here. In particular, there’s a truly wonderful performance – or should I call that ’embodiment’ of the rural Irish matriarch – by Aileen Henry as Jimmy’s mum, and the fact it’s a turn that’s almost a touch unmodulated only adds to the warm tapestry of the film. Loach’s maturity in keeping the material away from soapy sideplots deserves credit too – especially in the sensitive way that Jimmy’s return is received by his old flame, Oonagh, who is now married with two kids. There’s a palpable sense of regret that Jimmy’s exile sabotaged any chance they had of being together, and though there’s never any chance that Oonagh will forgo her spousal and parental commitment, the poignancy of their thwarted love is explored by Loach in a beautifully-rendered private dance Jimmy and Oonagh share – an appropriate metaphor in many ways for Loach’s tasteful, classy work in total. (June 2015)

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