An alcoholic drifter spends Halloween in his home town of Albany, NY after returning there for the first time in decades.



(novel), (screenplay)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jake Dengel ...
Laura Esterman ...


Albany, New York, Halloween, 1938. Francis Phelan and Helen Archer are bums, back in their birth city. She was a singer on the radio, he a major league pitcher. Death surrounds them: she's sick, a pal has cancer, he digs graves at the cemetery and visits the grave of his infant son whom he dropped; visions of his past haunt him, including ghosts of two men he killed. That night, out drinking, Helen tries to sing at a bar. Next day, Fran visits his wife and children and meets a grandson. He could stay, but decides it's not for him. Helen gets their things out of storage and finds a hotel. Amidst their mistakes and dereliction, the film explores their code of fairness and loyalty. Written by <>

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Release Date:

12 February 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tallo de hierro  »

Box Office


$27,000,000 (estimated)


$7,393,346 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The movie's source 1983 "Ironweed" novel by William Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1984. See more »


The movies takes place in 1938. The diner used in the movie, Miss Albany Diner, is a Silk City model manufactured in 1941. See more »


[first lines]
Pee Wee: [gathered around a fire barrel] Oh God, it's too damn cold out here. Hey, Francis.
Francis Phelan: Hey, Pee Wee.
Pee Wee: Have you come back?
Francis Phelan: Yeah. You, uh, seen Helen around?
Pee Wee: No. I haven't seen her in a couple days.
Francis Phelan: Well, I'll catch up with her.
See more »


He's Me Pal
Performed by Meryl Streep
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User Reviews

The Great/Depressing Depression
7 February 2007 | by (Portland, Oregon, USA) – See all my reviews

Given that we often hear a rather idealized version of the Great Depression - it seems like some people go so far as to treat it as the "good old days" - it's important to understand just what things were like back then. Hector Babenco's ultra-downer "Ironweed" does that. Jack Nicholson plays drifter Francis Phelan, who returns to his home town (where he hasn't been in years) and traipses around it, seeing the poverty prevalent throughout the Depression. He deals with his own demons and sees whether or not he can start up a new life. But he can't escape the reality of the status quo, or of his own past.

Watching this movie, you may feel like you've just been drug through a gutter. But one must wonder how much better things are nowadays. For how terrible the Depression was, it helped our country understand not only abject poverty, but what caused the Depression. In this era of air-heads slacking off and using as many resources as possible, I wonder whether or not we might be headed towards a new kind of Depression. If so, then the movie warned us.

Anyway, I recommend this movie, but understand that it's a total downer. Also starring Meryl Streep, Carroll Baker, Michael O'Keefe, Diane Venora, Fred Gwynne, Tom Waits and Nathan Lane.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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