In the twenty five years they have been there, done that, the Navvy (Irish working man) clock does not stop for alienation or inner despair. They are working men, strong even indestructible. Those gnawing feelings of something not being quite right are ameliorated by the camaraderie of their mates. So what if it all ends in tears or a thumping. They can give as good as they get or used to. At least they are alive and having the craic. Until it all changes, and a silence falls on the reverie of the gang. Tragedy has struck Jackie the youngest, the brightest and the bravest. The gang does what has always been done - they gather together for a Wake, a final celebration, a cheer, to give Jackie Flavin a send off fit for a king, a king of the Kilburn High Road. He, unlike them is set to return to Ireland - his body found bruised and battered on the railway track, crushed by the passing Kilburn train. Jackie's father Micil arrives over to North West London to bring his son home. The gang ...Written by
The future of home-grown Irish cinema seems safely in the bag for the time being. We have just had John Carney's "Once" which was a breath of fresh air as well as being a critical and commercial smash. Now we have Derry's own Tom Collins' superb screen version of the play "The Kings of Kilburn High Road" and it may turn out to be the best film yet about the Irish diaspora. It's a stunner and could see Ireland short-listed in the Best Foreign Film category at this year's Oscars.
The plot is simple and there is nothing new in it. Five friends, all immigrants from Ireland's Conemara, gather for the wake of a sixth killed by a train in the London Underground. During a long night's drinking, regrets and recriminations rise to the surface together with ghosts from their pasts. There is a touch of Eugene O'Neill here certainly, (Irishness and alcohol figured largely in his work), but as the night wears on and drunkenness breaks down the men's bravado, the film broadens out into a more universal study of machismo. Although a painfully accurate record of both the Irish way of death and drinking these could be any group of old friends in any bar anywhere in the world.
The bar-room setting of the film's second half exposes its theatrical origins but Collins opens it out superbly and the flashbacks to earlier days never seem intrusive. He keeps it briskly cinematic throughout and the performances of the whole cast can't be faulted. This is a superb ensemble piece and at a festival the performance of the five principals, (and of Peadar O'Taraigh as the dead man's father), would be worthy of a joint best actor award. However, I am inclined to single out Brendan Conroy as Git. Git may seem at first the weakest of the group but in Conroy's extraordinary performance he proves himself the strongest. Like the film itself, Conroy deserves the highest of praise.
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