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`Into The West' is a beautifully made film: that it is also a wonderful
children's move is only an added delight.
This film is a ghost story of love, loss, redemption, and the power of both myth and family to endure (if not exactly overcome) the twin bedevilments of a well-intentioned but meddling socialism, on the one hand, and privileged and greedy capitalism on the other. It is a modern fairy tale (with ties to traditional Irish mythology); but remarkably, it is also an honest, gritty look at the lives of not only the urban poor, but also of that most marginalized and enigmatic of socio-ethnic groups-the contemporary gypsies (or `travelers,' as they call themselves)--who eke out a meager but defiant existence in a world of the `settled.'
The movie is sympathetic to these people, but never over-romanticizes them. Around their campfire is not only joyous traditional Irish music and dancing, but also a television going full blast. And while their children are as happy as children anywhere, their camps are not idyllic picnics, but cold and grubby landfalls.
The story itself is not overly complicated. A strange white horse appears out of seemingly nowhere and is drawn to the two young sons of a widowed traveler, the death of whose wife has driven him to reject the gypsy life and embrace the bottle.
The horse, which has a preternatural jumping ability, is stolen and sold buy a corrupt police officer, then retaken by the boys, who then find themselves led westward by the horse, followed by both their father and the authorities.
All such journeys, of course, are journeys into both history and self knowledge; and it is here the film excels, gradually spinning out for us, with as few words as possible, the tale of a lost wife and mother, while showing us how the uncertain quest brings both father and sons to a better understanding of themselves, their history, and each other.
The film is painterly, well-acted (with especial kudos to the children) and splendidly edited--with no endless chase scenes (no more than necessary, anyway)--and with one of the most perfect and revealing climactic shots ever filmed--full of magic and metaphor--with never a word or a heavy-handed image.
`Into The West' is the perfect film for discriminating film lovers who want to watch some superb cinema with their kids-or without them.
P.S. My seven-year-old daughter loved it.
Don't let the cheesy video cover put your off. This is a gem of a family
movie that uses a wee bit of magic to pull a dysfunctional Irish family back
together. This is not a Disney film. The actors lack Hollywood's plastic
sheen and cutesy appeal--they're real and honest, and good. You know
from the start that this story will end happily, but there are some
interesting surprises along the way, and at the end, you feel like you've
just seen a piece of literature, not popcorn entertainment.
I give this film 9/10. My 12-year-old gave it 10/10, and my sometimes-cynical husband acknowledged "Yeah, it's a pretty good movie." That's high praise indeed.
This small-scale film focuses on Gypsy folklore and myth,
reincarnation, nature, and childhood.
Early in the film two Irish boys are given a horse by their grandad, which they decide to keep hidden in their tenement flat. Their father is severely depressed after the death of his wife, and lets the boys run riot. When the children (and horse) go on the run, he comes to terms with his travelling past with the Gypsies again and seeks solace in their help, wisdom, and faith.
'Into the West' is a truly remarkable film. The actors playing the children are remarkable (especially Ciaran Fitzgerald as Ossie), while the adult cast are headed by Gabriel Byrne (as the former traveller father) and his then-wife Ellen Barkin (as the mystical gypsy Kathleen). Both are excellent, while the mystical thread of the story - against the odds - remains believable and leaves an ending of optimism and goodwill.
Mike Newell, the director, and Jim Sheridan, the writer, deserve high praise for this movie. I also need to mention the Celtic music which pushes the story along and does much to set the atmosphere. Superb.
This is a deceptively complex movie. The basic plot outline of the Traveler boys stealing their horse back and leading police on a cross country chase suggests a simple boys adventure tale. And so it is. But it is also a commentary on Irish society. After all, it is a policeman and an industrialist who combine to steal the horse and change its name from the Irish Tir na nOg (based on an ancient legend) to National Security. (Do you really need me to point out the obvious symbolism there?) The subtext of the movie is about Ireland's beleaguered unique culture and identity fighting to assert itself. Of course, if you choose to focus solely on the plot and the humor, you'll have a great time. But if you look beneath the surface, you will find so much more.
This film's title is forgettable, though the film is not. It also is a
that defies categories. (i. e., adventure, family, etc.)
The cast is marvelous, including the children, and not least of all the beautiful horse. It is this ensemble of actors that endows the film with a legendary quality that is hard to forget.
The modern, harsh, and unadorned setting makes the story all the more poignant because it is not a fairytale. We can relate to these characters because their problems are problems that confront all of us. It is a story about underdogs we can root for, and about how animals and children enrich our lives by reminding us to set aside our cynicism, have faith, and be true to ourselves.
This is a great, highly underrated film that I'd recommend to anyone, anytime. I loved it!
Irish themes often end up cloying or playing to stereotype. This movie,
with its "mystical" Celtish theme and its message of Irish pluck could
easily have fall into either trap.
But the kids -- and the horse -- save the day. Great actors, those boys. Great choreography with a beautiful horse. Together, these elements make the story remarkably engaging -- keep the story itself from devolving into bathos, and make it impossible for you not to suspend disbelief and root for the horse! Great directing to bring this all together.
Example of how such a fantastical story is presented with some subtlety: in one almost inconsequential shot, the two boys are walking down a crowded Dublin sidewalk, leading the horse. A couple of kids pass them, and throw unprovoked verbal abuse at the boys, disparaging them for being travellers. The older boy quickly spits back a retort or two in kind and then returns seamlessly to his ongoing conversation with his brother -- but doesn't break his stride and doesn't show any signs that the abuse has even registered with him. It is as once heart-rending (what does it say about his life so far that such an attack barely registers, it must be so common), and a testament to the boy's courage.
In that one brief scene, the movie shows the depth of character the kid will draw on throughout the movie, and you can't help but root for him! And the acting makes you feel like this is really who the boy is, not that he's an actor playing a part. (It was such a better scene than the heavy-handed scenes with the requisite bad cop.)
I always remember this movie for the shock of seeing a horse trying to
live an apartment. Now, there's an unusual sight! I revisited this film
last week and for a second and an overdo "ride" with these mystical
Irish gypsies and their strange. By the way, I hadn't realized how
nicely filmed this was until I saw it on 1.85:1 widescreen DVD.
Also to my surprise was that it wasn't the happy, family film I had remembered. There are many moments of frustration, sadness, violence, injustice, ete. It's hardly a bunch of fun times. The language is such, too, that I wouldn't recommend this for little kids, unless perhaps in Ireland where everyone seems to use Jesus' name in vain frequently, even kids.
It's still a story, basically, about two kids trying to capture and then keep a white horse, which is taken away from them. The cops (some crooked, as filmmakers love to show), the crooks and family are all out over the countryside looking for the boys and the horse.
In between, their father slowly comes to grips with the death of his wife some seven years earlier, a tragedy he has never been able to deal with correctly.
The best character and the most fun to watch is little "Ossie," played by Ciaran Fitzgerald. He's the one most-attached to the horse and the wee one has some of the best lines in the film.
This excellent movie deals with issues of identity, death and family. It is
also a very funny and gentle fantasy (set in contemporary times) about two
Irish boys and their magical horse.
This may sound silly to many. I wouldn't even fault anyone for having passed on it during its initial theatrical release or for passing it by in the video store. The marketing of this movie made it seem like a wacky, silly movie about kids getting into and out of several situations with their horse. The only reason I even saw it was faith in the cast and crew. I feel I was well rewarded.
The performances are exceptional. The two boys behave in a completely natural way without resorting to traditional "cutesy" mannerisms and expressions (which isn't to say the movie does not have its cute moments. ..it's just that they don't seem forced when they happen). Gabriel Byrne's performance is absolutely beautiful. Even though the movie is about the kids and the horse (at first glance) it really is about him and his character's denial of what he really is and how he is set right again.
The cinematography, direction and music are all superb. You won't be disappointed if you just give it a chance.
A very entertaining and interesting film on several levels.
Educational: about the life of the Tinkers or Travelers and the prejudice against them.
Entertaining: the little boys are lovable and delightful.
Mythical: where did the wonderful white horse come from and go?
Beautiful: country and seaside scenery and photography contrasted with crowded city scenes.
Romantic: he lost a wife he loved and left the wandering life, but returns to it when a lovely woman appears.
This film has everything! One of my All-Time Favorite movies!
"There are certain things that happen in the film that cannot happen unless
the world is a very odd, mysterious, and unreal sort of place" - Mike Newell
In Mike Newell's 1992 film Into the West, Papa Reilly (Gabriel Byrne), a member of a little known Irish sect of Celtic origin called "The Travellers", is left to care for his two young boys after his wife Mary dies giving birth. Like Gypsies, the Travellers live a nomadic life, existing on the fringes of society. Buoyed by a humorous script by Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot), the film aims for light family entertainment but the depiction of the poor and outcast and a shift toward the spiritual takes it into deeper territory.
The film opens in a dark place. Reilly, depressed by the death of his wife, has left the Travellers and is drinking heavily and living on welfare in Dublin. When the boys, 8-year old Ossie (Ciaran Fitzgerald) and his protective brother, 12-year old Tito (Ruaidhri Conroy), are given a snow-white horse as a gift from their grandfather (David Kelly), however, the film turns a corner. Grandpa Ward tells the boys about the Celtic legend of a white horse named Tir na nOg who comes from the land of eternal youth, and they promptly call their horse Tir na nOg. When the authorities find the horse in the Reilly's flat, however, they sell him to a wealthy businessman who discovers that the horse is a graceful jumper and primes him for competition.
The boys, who have formed a strange bond with their horse, promptly steal him back. Escaping from the pursuit of villainous authorities, they embark on a journey to the west of Ireland, following the white horse wherever he takes them. Pretending they are cowboys, the boys get into one harrowing escapade after another, at one time taking the horse to a movie theatre and another time for an elevator ride in an apartment building. Redeemed by a relationship with a "fellow Traveller", Kathleen (Byrne's real-life wife Ellen Barkin), Reilly realizes he must save both himself and his children and takes off after them with renewed vigor.
Into the West is a spirited adventure combining mysticism, social realism, and action/adventure that transcends the facile Disney genre and has a universal appeal. If you think you are too jaded by modern society to enjoy this film, just close your eyes and remember how the world looked when you were 12-years old. Now climb onto your magic horse and go where it goes.
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