Release Date: July 31, 2015
Running Time: 109 minutes
A man who works purely for need, and without greed in his heart, is rare to find. But iconic British director Ken Loach believes he has found one in Jimmy Gralton, the political leader who was deported from his native Ireland to the United States in 1933 because of his work as the leader of the Revolutionary Workers' Group. Loach finds much to admire about Gralton in Jimmy’s Hall, an intriguing examination of the politics that divided Ireland following the end of the Irish War of Independence in 1921. While many in Jimmy’s Hall condemn Gralton as a Communist radical and agitator, Loach regards him as a working-class hero who stands for his fellow man and woman against the forces of tyranny in the form of the Catholic Church and the Irish government and police. This is not a surprise because Loach always been a director who has documented the struggles of the working class. Of course, Loach knows better than to indulge in hero worship, so he presents Gralton (Barry Ward) as a man of the people whose intent isn’t so much to take down the establishment but to find a safe space where his beliefs and those of his opponents can coexist. This takes the form of a dance hall that Gralton reopens following his 1932 return to Ireland after living in self-imposed exile in the United States for a decade. Gralton wants the dance hall to serve as a social resource and a learning center and for a downtrodden, jobless community that needs a place to call its own. The Catholic Church, though, views the dance hall as a breeding ground for Communism, and a local priest, Father Sheridan (Jim Norton), makes it his personal crusade to take over or shut down the dance hall. Jimmy’s Hall unfolds as a quiet but absorbing political tug of war between two men unwavering in their beliefs and unwilling to compromise. Loach asks many pointed questions about the role of organizational religion in our daily lives and how it uses its influence to impact social issues of concern, questions that certainly seem timely today given the ongoing debate over abortion and LGBT rights. He offers a calm and collected argued against the Catholic Church’s actions against Gralton, and even seeks out a younger priest to serve as a voice of reason to counterbalance Father Sheridan’s “fire and brimstone” proclamations and acts of public shaming. Barry Ward finds in Gralton the necessary empathy, passion and humility to make him a natural-born leader. This, of course, is in contrast to the fury and indignation that fuels Jim Norton as Father Sheridan. Despite the obvious tension to be found between Gralton and Father Sheridan, Ward and Norton ably convey the mutual respect that informs the relationship between these two longtime adversaries. That doesn’t stop the gloves from coming off and hard punches being thrown in the form of plainspoken but well-articulated political and philosophical debates. There’s no doubt which side Loach is on. Just as there’s no doubt that, five decades into his directing career, Loach remains as committed to bringing to light past and current social injustices as he ever was.
Aired: July 30, 2015
Web site: http://sonyclassics.com/jimmyshall/