A retired American boxer returns to the village of his birth in Ireland, where he falls for a spirited redhead whose brother is contemptuous of their union.A retired American boxer returns to the village of his birth in Ireland, where he falls for a spirited redhead whose brother is contemptuous of their union.A retired American boxer returns to the village of his birth in Ireland, where he falls for a spirited redhead whose brother is contemptuous of their union.
For those who doubt the film's sense of irony, just re-watch the scene where Sean (John Wayne) paints the door of his cottage. The Vicar's wife remarks on its beauty and in a deadpan manner suggests "only an American would have thought of Emerald Green". Only an American (or a foreigner), is the implication, would think that the picturebook Ireland they are seeing in this film is a realistic portrayal of a lived experience of the country. An Irish person would have painted the door red, she says. It weathers better that way.
The film takes ideas of Irishness and exaggerates them to brilliant and comic effect. The drinking Mickaleen, the patriarchal rule, the idyllic countryside. But beneath the Oirish exterior is a sharp intelligence and a subversion of what the film at first glance seems to suggest.
Beneath the idyllic countryside are elemental forces that are waiting to be disturbed, as we see in the two scenes where Sean and Mary-kate kiss. Storm clouds fill the sky and the wind whips about them. The countryside which previously seemed so welcoming is now tempestuous and threatening. Theirs are passions which do not fit in the comic book world which we have previously seen. Yet they exist.
The portrayal of women, and particularly Sean's treatment of Mary-Kate when he drags her through the field is not so oppressive as it might seem. Remember that it is her who insists on receiving her dowry, who equates her possessions to her worth. It is she who forces Sean to act the way he does and fight Will Danaher. She indoctrinates him into her society by threatening to leave him. She withholds the marital bed. Sean eventually becomes the man she wants him to be.
In short this is a portrayal of Irish, or more importantly, rural life that is very much from the point of view of the outsider. Of the city folk. Yet it always acknowledges that and has great fun playing with its stereotypes. Its funny, its romantic, it appeals to the part of us that yearns to live a simple life away from the complex world, much as we know that life does not exist. Enjoy it!
- Oct 17, 2001