In The Name Of The Father (1993) Directed by Jim Sheridan
I have no real knowledge about the troubled story of Northern Ireland, mostly I have just seen movies about it. I claimed to have seen In The Name Of The Father as well, but to be honest this was my first time! Belfast and Daniel Day-Lewis just seemed like such familiar concepts.
In The Name Of The Father is one of those meaty and filling portions of cinema with the right proportions of great acting, a real and shocking story, anxiousness, anger, family ties, genders, hippies, drugs, crooks, prison time, torture and finally change. I can even forgive Emma Thompson's overly mumsy look just this once.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays a young son of an Irish family who is sent to London to get away from the looming IRA, and away from his petty crime and poverty in general. There he finds the pleasures of a big city for a brief moment before returning home rich with stolen money. In the first half of the movie Gerry's (Daniel Day-Lewis) leather jacket, shirt and jeans combination gives him a rock'n'roll edge.
Day-Lewis acts with pleasure and some of that youthful unpredictability, which brings to mind Robert De Niro in Mean Streets.
Yet, most of the film Gerry spends in prison because he is wrongly accused of the IRA bombing of a pub. Gerry and his father (also put in prison for terrorism) share a sell most of the time. There they have plenty of time to go over their relationship from early childhood onwards. Finally, the transformation of Gerry takes place and frees him from life in imprisonment – he accepts help.
The legal system is yet again abused by those with power, while innocent people suffer and lose their lives – sacrifices to save face. Black and white. But so life appears sometimes.
As recently as last week, Elvis Costello pulled out of shows planned in Israel because he objects to the way Israel has behaved towards Palestine. I can't really argue with Elvis, one wonders why he booked the shows in the first place. On the same principle, we can soon expect Elvis to condemn the USA and UK for the invasion of Iraq and the ongoing occupation of Iraq and stop playing shows in those countries too. Yeah, right. Oh, the contradictions and the controversies. In a sense, this highlights the question: whose side are you on? Is there anyone left to side with? I'm not so sure anymore.
I mention all this, because In The Name Of The Father concentrates on another aspect of recent British history that the English should not be so proud of. I remember the Guildford pub bombing of 1974 and the IRA terrorist mainland campaign, I was 8 at the time. There was genuine fear that, growing up in that area of suburban London where I'm from, you could easily become a victim of an IRA bombing. There was a sense of anti-Irish feeling in England. One of the best films to deal with The Troubles, In The Name Of The Father focuses on the true story of Gerry Conlon who is coerced by the police into an admission of guilt (although innocent) for the IRA bombings. His father and other members of his family are imprisoned too, Conlon tries to clear his and his father's name and regain his freedom.
Jim Sheridan directs the picture clearly and energetically. Most of the plaudits go to Daniel Day-Lewis who turns in one his best performances. In this film Day-Lewis is up there with the best of De Niro and justifies the claims some have made that he's the actor of his generation. Day-Lewis is well supported by Pete Postlethwaite who plays Conlon's father Giuseppe.
Although floored, this film is moving and at the same time angering. What happens to Conlon and his family is beyond appalling, but it makes you realize this kind of injustice is permanent and widespread in so called democratic societies. A brilliant film, which bristles with indignant power and anger.