Neil Jordan's historical biopic of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins, the man who led a guerrilla war against the UK, helped negotiate the creation of the Irish Free State, and led the National Army during the Irish Civil War.
In the 1970s, a young trans woman, Patrick "Kitten" Braden, comes of age by leaving her Irish town for London, in part to look for her mother and in part because her gender identity is beyond the town's understanding.
During the Depression, Jimmy Gralton returns home to Ireland after ten years of exile in America. Seeing the levels of poverty and oppression, the activist in him reawakens and he looks to re-open the dance hall that led to his deportation.
In 1920, rural Ireland is the vicious battlefield of republican rebels against the British security forces and Irish Unionist population who oppose them, a recipe for mutual cruelty. Medical graduate Damien O'Donovan always gave priority to his socialist ideals and simply helping people in need. Just when he's leaving Ireland to work in a highly reputed London hospital, witnessing gross abuse of commoners changes his mind. he returns and joins the local IRA brigade, commanded by his brother Teddy, and adopts the merciless logic of civil war, while Teddy mellows by experiencing first-hand endless suffering. When IRA leaders negotiate an autonomous Free State under the British crown, Teddy defends the pragmatic best possible deal at this stage. Damien however joins the large seceding faction which holds nothing less than a socialist republic will do. The result is another civil war, bloodily opposing former Irish comrades in arms, even the brothers.Written by
My family came from Clonakilty and were directly involved in the events portrayed. The film struck an authentic note in portraying the young men and their fight. Of course the British forces were shown as monsters in the film as part of the mode of telling the tale, but growing up listening to the stories of the fighters, tales of atrocities did not feature.
The technical detail in the film was accurate and quite excellent and for that reason it may be of interest to point out three anomalies.
First: the men sung the present Irish National Anthem when they were held in the barracks and they sung it using Irish (Gaelic) words. In fact, the popular republican song which became the National Anthem was called The Soldiers' Song and the words were (of course)in English. They went:
Soldiers are we, Whose lives are pledged to Ireland, Some have come, From a land beyond the waves, Sworn to be free, Once more our ancient sire land, Etc
The Gaelic words were not written until ten or fifteen years later and were then promoted by Government as part of the fiction of Ireland being Gaelic speaking. When I was in school in the 1940's we learned the original English version and although nowadays the schools teach the Gaelic words, very few people retain them.
Second: after the men came in from the ambush they were fed at the farmhouse, eating from round bowls. I never saw such a dish in use in Ireland until people started going to Spain on their holidays in the 1960's. We used flat plated or flat-bottomed soup plates.
Third: When asked when he was leaving for England, the young doctor said "at the weekend". He would have said "on Saturday" or "on Sunday". The word "weekend" meaning a segment of time only arrived when the weekend became a defined segment of time. When small farmers worked a seven day week, they had no "weekends" and did not have a word for them in everyday usage.
My word for this film is 'evocative'and it with this sense that it should be watched.
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