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Roy Ward Baker
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Roy Ward Baker
Heart-warming film from a rather sombre storyline, thanks to a few rather engaging characters.
I stumbled across this film on television quite by accident today, whilst flicking through channels for something to watch. What began as a quick 30 second appraisal of plot and the setting had me glued to the screen for the entire movie. I was quickly and thoroughly hooked by the engaging characters and the, at times, rather sombre storyline.
Set in Ireland, the film centres around Mike McNeil (John Gregson) and his relationship with his family during difficult times. Mike is a gifted but out-of-work farm hand, forced to relocate his family to a coastal town to find work at a shipyard. He takes the only job he can find, working on precarious tower at the nearby shipyard despite a morbid fear of heights that often renders him physically ill. To cope, he quickly resorts to drinking, often consuming much of his wages, placing additional pressures on himself, his relationship with his wife and even affecting his son's chances to pass his school exam. Of course Mrs Flannagan, the very snipish local gossip, and her daughter live next door to the McNeils and they gleeful take every opportunity to add insult to the McNeils' injuries.
Only McNeil's daughter, Jacqueline (of the film's title), seems to accept her father unconditionally, entirely unwilling to accept what others in town have to say about him. Her stance provides some entertaining exchanges between her and Mrs Flannagan's spiteful little girl, Sara.
Considering the fairly depressing nature of Mike McNeil's situation - a talented worker forced into the wrong job to make ends meet, turning to drink and placing his entire family under financial and emotional strain as a result, a disapproving and interfering mother-in-law determined to break up their marriage (and an old admirer of McNeil's wife, Elizabeth, more than willing to lend a hand) - and the film's being shot in rather harsh B&W tones, you might be forgiven for thinking this would be a depressing film.
It's not. While there is more than an occasional light-hearted moment, it does get quite serious at times as McNeil fails time and again to live up to everyone else's expectations of him (and him of himself), but there is a much more positive side to this story that prevents it venturing into maudlin.
You see, young Jacqueline (Jacqueline Ryan) - a right little liar by nature, but with a good heart - even in the face of damning evidence, refuses to see her father as anything less than the noble figure she believes he could be ("My dad doesn't drink - not a drop. Mr Owen even said so") and it is she who develops the most influential, if somewhat incongruous, relationships in the film with diverse characters as Owen (the local priest), the finger-pointing Sara Flannagan and even Mr Lord, her father's employer.
John Gregson, playing Mike McNeil, excels in this film. In fact, I enjoyed him in this film so much that, though not normally a fan of the genre, I shall be keeping an eye out for more of his films from now on.
Not at all the film I expected at all from those first 30 seconds. Despite the emotional weight of some of the subject matter, I found this a very heart-warming film (and one I will watch again if it ever reappears on TV or DVD).
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