Director: Ken Loach
Starring: Barry Ward, Simone Kirby, Jim Norton
It’s 1932 in County Leitrim, Ireland. The country is rife with political tensions following the civil war ten years prior. An Irish Free State has been established, but the friction remains between the Catholic Church, the State and the Republican Movement. Enter James Gralton, a Communist Irishman who returns to look after his dying mother after living in the United States. His return exacerbates the tension, especially when he reopens the town hall for the community to debate political issues, to dance and to enjoy.
It’s difficult to talk ill of veteran director Ken Loach’s work – after all he has forged a career filled with films known for their realist style as well as their social commentary, both are evident here. But unlike Loach’s other work (see Palme D’or winner The Wind That Shakes the Barley that broaches the same pocket of history) Jimmy’s Hall seems to lack the same emotion and intensity that is necessary for slower films to captivate its audience (see Paris, Texas or Under the Skin).
Loach’s approach here is reminiscent of something that would be found on SBS in the middle of the day. Interesting to those who have nothing better to do, beautiful to watch, but on the whole absent of cinematic grandeur and unreasonably filled with long conversations that fall flat. Loach seems preoccupied with making a social statement, so much so that his characters are strictly caricatures of good and evil. The Catholic Priests are the illogical conservatives, whereas Jimmy is the archetypical revolutionary free spirit fighting for the best cause. Only once are the Priests represented as having some sort of moral compass, when the younger Priest (played by Andrew Scott of Sherlock fame) mentions that the tactics used by them are similar to the Ku Klux Klan.
The film is undoubtedly heartfelt and filled with beautiful landscape shots as well as exquisite costuming, but on a whole falls short of what Loach can achieve. It is thought to be his last work (he is 78 after all) and it’s a shame to see him finish a sublime career on a mute note.
Review by Jade Bates